Meniscus Tears 

Meniscus tears are damage to the meniscus, the cartilage that contains the knee. This often occurs with age, wear and tear of the meniscus and twisting of the knee. The meniscus is a piece of cartilage that provides a cushion between your thighbone (femur) and shinbone (tibia). Each knee joint has two menisci.

Different Types of Meniscus Tears

  • Meniscus bucket handle tear
  • This is a tear that tears vertically in either zone. Does not cut across the meniscus. This type gets its name because the tear looks like a bucket handle.
  • Transverse tear
  • This type of tear extends from the inner free margin toward the periphery
  • Horizontal tear (flap tear)
  • This tear cuts across the meniscus opposed to running along side of it
  • Oblique tear
  • Diagonal tear across the Meniscus
  • Complex meniscus tear
  • This type of tear is a combination of several different types of tears
  • Oblique tear (parrot beak tear)
  • As this type of tear grows it makes an opened angle shape that looks like a bird’s beak.

Meniscus Tear Causes

  • Common in sports, players may squat and twist the knee causing it to tear. It is also possible that it is caused by direct contact.
  • Older People are at higher risk because their cartilage has weakened over time.
  • The meniscus can be torn during any activity that puts pressure on or rotates the knee joint.
  • Kneeling
  • Squatting

Meniscus Tear Signs and Symptoms

  • Localized pain near the area of the tear

Lateral Meniscus – discomfort will be present along with outside edge of the knee

  • Medial Meniscus – Pain will be present on the inside edge of the injured knee
  • Immediate pain after injury
  • Usually obvious from the moment the injury occurs. When you tear your meniscus you usually have a popping feeling inside the leg. This usually occurs during over-exertion or a twisting motion.
  • Pain with movement
  • The pain will reflect the location of the tear
  • Fluid accumulation within the knee joint
  • The accumulated fluid will cause the entire injured area to swell up and reduce mobility
  • Knee locking
  • A piece of the meniscus can break free and lodge its self within the knee joint which can cause the knee to lock up

Meniscus Tear Risk Factors (Degenerative)

  • Age – older than 60
  • Gender – male
  • Work Related Stress

Meniscus Tear Risk Factors (Acute)

  • Soccer
  • Rugby
  • Waiting longer than a year between ACL injury and surgery

Testing for a Meniscus Tear

  • Patient in supine position
  • Knee that is being tested should be fully flexed
  • Physician holds the sole of the foot in one hand and palpates the medial or lateral aspect of the tibia-fibular joint
  • Patient lies in prone position with knee flexed to 90 degrees
  • Patient’s thigh is then anchored to the examining table by the examiner’s knee
  • Examiner medially and laterally rotates the tibia combined first with distraction while noting excessive movement or discomfort
  • The process repeated using compression instead of distraction. If rotation plus distraction is more painful, then lesion is most likely ligaments; if rotation plus compression is more painful or shows decreased rotation relative to normal side of the lesion, then it is most likely a meniscus injury

Meniscus Tear Treatment

  • Non-Surgical Treatment
  • Physical therapy, cortisone injections or Super Cool Therapeutic Knee Wrap to reduce inflammation and non-steroidal pain medication, if the meniscus tear is a result of age and wear and tear
  • Surgical Treatment
  • Minimally invasive arthroscopic knee surgery where an orthopedic knee surgeon repairs or removes the damaged meniscus
  • A better choice if you are younger or if you want to remain in good shape physically, then this would be a better choice. Once the surgery is completed, physical therapy will be needed.
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