What are meniscus tears?
The meniscus is one of cartilages in the knee that provides cushioning and stabilisation. It’s also one of the most commonly injured parts of the knee.
Meniscus tears are often caused by twisting/pivoting the knee joint during sport (especially football, netball, basketball, tennis, squash). But you can tear your meniscus without playing sport – it can tear from just getting up too quickly from the squatting position. Tears can also develop gradually as you age – these are called degenerative tears.
What are the symptoms of a meniscal tear?
When the tear occurs, you may feel a popping sensation. Other symptoms of a meniscal tear usually occur soon after the injury, although they can come on slowly if you have a degenerative tear. Symptoms include:
- pain, which may be worse when you straighten your leg
- swelling that occurs within a day or so of the injury and may last for months if you have a degenerative tear
- knee locking (due to a piece of broken off cartilage jamming up the joint) which prevents the leg being straightened
- a clicking or catching sensation in the knee while walking
What does your doctor look for?
Your doctor will take your medical history (eg how the injury occurred) and perform a physical examination that will include an assessment of how your knee moves and functions.
What investigations are needed?
It’s usually possible to diagnose a meniscus tear based on your medical history and knee examination. But a lot of the time your doctor will request an x-ray to rule out fractures and arthritis, or an MRI for a detailed assessment of the cartilage.
What is the treatment for a meniscus tear?
Straight after the injury, you need to rest your knee and to try keep it elevated. Icing it and/or using a compression bandage can help. You may also need pain relief medication.
In younger patients, it is preferable to attempt surgical repair and preserve a torn menisus as soon as possible after injury.
In adults, if pain and mobility issues persist after the initial injury, further treatment might be needed. The size and location of the tear determines which treatments are most appropriate. Treatment options include:
- therapy (eg physiotherapy, stretching exercises, learning what activities to avoid)
- medications (eg anti-inflammatories)
- surgery (eg arthroscopic repair or removal of damaged cartilage) <<link to treatment meniscal tear>>
Our specialists at Orthopaedic Clinics Gold Coast will work with you to create the best treatment plan for your particular situation.
If you have had your meniscus removed and suffer significant pain and disability, you may be a candidate for a meniscus transplant. This is complex surgery that is increasingly used for young patients with this issue. Our specialists at Orthopaedic Clinics Gold Coast are experienced in this procedure and would be happy to discuss it if you think you may be a candidate.