Meniscus Tear- Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment
A tear in the meniscus is one of the most common knee injuries. It can be extremely painful and weakening. The largest joint in the body is the knee. It consists of three bones – the kneecap, the thighbone (femur), and the shinbone (tibia). The piece of cartilage that acts as a cushion between the shinbone and the thighbone is known as the meniscus. In each of our knee joints, there are two menisci.
Our knees enable us to bend where the thighbone and shinbone are attached. The knee joint is how we can perform different activities such as walking, running, squatting, and climbing. Athletes such as basketball players make these effortless turns and twists, but one wrong move can lead to a torn meniscus.
It happens most commonly while engaging in contact sports that require a lot of twisting or squatting. If you hear a pop sound, that is an indication of a tear in the meniscus. You might experience swelling and pain that comes and goes. It might also feel as if your knee is locking or giving away when you bend it.
Causes of Meniscus Tear
Engaging in any activity that requires one to rotate or twist the knee suddenly or forcefully can cause a tear in the meniscus. Sometimes, activities such as squatting, lifting something heavy, or kneeling can also lead to a torn meniscus. Older adults may suffer from a torn meniscus due to degenerative changes of the knee. As we grow old, the cartilage weakens and becomes thin, making it more prone to tearing.
Symptoms of Meniscus Tear
The most common symptoms of a meniscus tear are as follows –
- Pain in the knee
- Feeling like knee being stuck or locked up
- Popping sound while the occurrence of injury
- Difficulty while straightening or bending the leg
Athletes tend to play through the pain. It may seem like a minor injury but if left untreated, a torn meniscus could develop into a long-term knee problem such as arthritis or even require surgery.
At Germanten Hospital, we have a dedicated team of physicians, orthopedic surgeons, and physiotherapists, led by Dr Mir Jawad Zar Khan, who is an expert in the diagnosis and surgical as well as non-surgical treatment of the knee. He has over two decades of experience in the field. To celebrate his achievements and efforts, he has been felicitated with the title of Best Doctor by the ex-CM of Joint Andhra Pradesh & Former Governor Tamilnadu, Shri Roshaiah Garu in 2018. In 2019, he was honored with the Vaida Ratna Award by the Honourable Health Minister of Telangana, Shree Etala Rajendra.
Your doctor at Germanten Hospital would discuss your medical history and symptoms with you. After that, he or she will examine your knee for tenderness where the meniscus is located, thoroughly. To check for a torn meniscus, your doctor will perform the McMurray test, wherein they will bend your knee, straighten it and rotate it, thus putting tension on the meniscus. If it is torn, then a clicking sound will be heard every time the doctor performs this test.
To rule out other knee problems with similar symptoms, your doctor might also perform X-rays and an MRI. X-rays can identify other causes of knee pain such as osteoarthritis and an MRI offers better visualization of the knee joint, especially the meniscus.
After your diagnosis, the orthopedic surgeon will devise a treatment plan depending on the type, size, and location of your injury. Your age, level of activity, and previous injuries are also factored in while deciding on a treatment plan.
A meniscus tear can occur either in the outside one-third part or the inside two-third part of it. A tear in the outside one-third of the meniscus might heal on its own or it can be repaired with surgery, as this area has a rich blood supply. If the tear is in the inside two-thirds of the meniscus, then surgery is required to repair it since this area does not have a blood supply and cannot heal on its own.
For a tear in the outside area of the meniscus, non-surgical treatment might be adequate. The RICE protocol is the best method for such treatments.
R – This stands for Rest. The first step is to rest after the injury and avoid indulging in the activity that has caused this injury.
I – This stands for Ice. Applying ice packs on the injured area for 20 minutes at a time, several times a day is essential for the injury to heal quickly.
C – This stands for Compression. Applying a bandage on the injured area helps prevent swelling and loss of blood.
E – This stands for elevation. Keep your leg a few levels above your heart to reduce the swelling in the injured area.
Your doctor might also prescribe you some medication to reduce pain and swelling. If your symptoms are not relieved after non-surgical treatment, your doctor might recommend performing surgery. Some commonly performed procedures to repair meniscus tears are –
- Arthroscopy – In this procedure, the surgeon creates a small incision through which a miniature camera is inserted. This offers a clear view of the knee to the surgeon. After this, the surgeon inserts miniature instruments through other incisions to trim or repair the meniscus tear.
- Meniscus repair – In this procedure, the surgeon repairs the meniscus tear by stitching the torn pieces together.
- Partial Meniscectomy – In this procedure, the surgeon trims away the part of the meniscus that has been damaged.
After treatment, your doctor will recommend to you some rehabilitation exercises to restore your knee’s strength and mobility. You can perform these exercises at home or go for physical therapy.
At Germanten Hospital, each operation theatre has a high-advanced laminar airflow for total infection control. With over 200 beds, Germanten Hospital is NABH accredited and has earned the title of Best Emerging Orthopaedic Hospital in India, awarded by the Times of India in 2019. It has also been named the Best Orthopedic Hospital in South India by the Economic Times 2021.