Meniscus tear is one of the most common causes of knee pain. The knee joint consists of the peripheral end of the femur, the central end of the tibia and the patella. Each knee has 2 menisci, the inner meniscus on the inside of the knee and the outer meniscus on the outside of the knee.
The menisci are elastic fibrochondrial formations that consist of water and collagen. They have a crescent shape and act as a “shock absorber” absorbing vibrations during the movement of the knee and distributing the weight evenly throughout the joint. The menisci also contribute to the stability and lubrication of the knee.
How does meniscus tear occur?
Meniscus tear is usually traumatic. The force required to tear depends on the size of the injury and the pre-existing meniscus degeneration. It usually occurs in young patients during a sports activity, but it can also occur in any other activity when they exert rotational and compressive loads that exceed the strength of the meniscus. Older patients with pre-existing degenerative lesions are also vulnerable and are more likely to have a meniscus tear even during daily movement.
Symptoms of meniscus tear
At the time of injury, the patient may feel or even hear a noise as if something had broken. Sometimes it is possible for the patient to continue his activity but gradually the knee may swell and become stiff.
The most common symptoms are:
- Pain in the inside or outside of the knee (corresponding to a broken meniscus) that worsens with the knee bent (as in the deep seat or stairs)
- Swelling and stiffness
- Knee bruise or involvement when there is a dislocated piece
- Feeling of instability
The diagnosis is made by history and clinical examination with special techniques. MRI serves to confirm the diagnosis, to rule out other lesions and to plan treatment.
In case the symptoms are mild, conservative treatment is followed, which includes medication and physiotherapy to prevent stiffness, reduce swelling and avoid muscle atrophy. The patient must follow a special program of strengthening the muscles that contribute to the stability of the joint.
- Ice therapy
- Manual therapy
- Diamagnetic pump
- Predisposition and balance exercises
Immediate treatment of the problem can significantly reduce the chances of surgery, unless the extent of the injury is large. In case the conservative treatment fails, the patient should resort to arthroscopic treatment.