Torn Meniscus: Causes and Treatments

Image Credit: https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/

“Values are related to our emotions, just as we practice physical hygiene to preserve our physical health, we need to observe emotional hygiene to preserve a healthy mind and attitudes.”— Dalai Lama

What causes a torn meniscus? 

The knee is a joint that consists of three primary bones that are known as the femur, tibia and patella. The bones intersect each other and are cushioned by a smooth material that is known as cartilage. Along with other joint fluids, the presence of cartilage enables the knee joint to smoothly operate, and withstand any external pressures. Within the joint cavity, there are two disk-shaped connective tissues called menisci. The function of the connecting tissue is to equilibrate forces within the skeletal frame. The body rests on the joint system, and in the lower part of the legs, the menisci absorb any shock from the weight of the upper body, as it is applied onto a small surface area. 

Front view of knee joint.

Image 2: Labelled Anatomy of the  Knee Joint [1]

The meniscus are flexible tissue, and with the application of sudden forces such as a rotating movement, they can be torn. During sporting activity is when the right conditions that induce meniscus tears are often achieved. Sudden activity can create what medical professionals describe as a traumatic tear. Alternately, with consistent routine activity that causes strain on the knees, a degenerative tear can be developed. The presence of existing conditions such as arthritis can also impact the formation of a torn meniscus. 

Along with the two forms of torn meniscus, it is also possible to have differing levels of intensity of meniscus tear. A minor tear, is one that occurs, and leaves the meniscus intact and connected to the knee. A major meniscus tear will leave the meniscus only barely attached, with the meniscus attached by a cartilage thread. 

The primary impactors of meniscus tear are physical activity, age, and any underlying conditions in the body. 

What symptoms do patients experience? 

The most common symptoms of a torn meniscus include[1]: 

  • Pain, especially when holding the knee straight
  • Swelling and stiffness
  • Knee may catch, click, or lock
  • Knee may feel weak or unstable
  • Less range of motion

Your orthopaedic specialist will conduct an examination of the knee, and with the appropriate diagnostic tools, will be able to determine how severe your torn meniscus is. Diagnosis is often determined via the utilisation of imaging technology such as X-rays, MRI or via arthroscopy. These tools enable the internal framework of the knee to be properly viewed by your orthopaedic surgeon. 

Once the diagnosis is clearly identified, the best treatment path for your healing can occur. 

What is the treatment plan for a torn meniscus? 

A variety of factors are at play in the determination of your treatment plan. Based on the parameters outlined above, a combination of the therapies below may be applied to treat your torn meniscus[1]: 

  • Resting, icing, and elevating your knee
  • Compression bandage
  • Medicine to relieve pain and reduce inflammation, such as ibuprofen
  • Muscle-strengthening exercises
  • Arthroscopic surgery

Via treatment, the joint integrity of the knee can be restored. If a torn meniscus is left untreated, pain can be prolonged. Additional conditions such as osteoarthritis can worsen, if the torn meniscus is not attended to. It is always best to seek medical attention, in order to ensure the appropriate course of treatment, and restore your joints back to their optimum health. Talk to your orthopaedic specialist if you exhibit any of the above symptoms. 

Reference Article: 

  1. Torn Meniscus: https://healthlibrary.brighamandwomens.org/Library/DiseasesConditions/Adult/Orthopedic/85,P00945

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Dr. Gordon Slater

Dr. Slater is one of the first foot and ankle surgeons in Australia to adopt minimally invasive surgical techniques. He routinely uses MIS to treat a range of conditions, including bunions.

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Dr Gordon Slater is a highly-skilled surgeon specialising in foot and ankle conditions and sports injuries. Dr Slater is one of the first foot and ankle surgeons in Australia to adopt minimally invasive surgical techniques. He routinely uses MIS to treat a range of conditions, including bunions. MIS  has many advantages including shorter operating times, reduced post-operative pain, reduced risk of infection, minimal scarring and better cosmetic outcomes.

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