What is a Meniscus Tear?
The meniscus is a C-shaped piece of tough, rubbery cartilage that acts as a shock absorber between your shinbone and thighbone. It can be torn if you suddenly twist your knee while bearing weight on it. A torn meniscus is one of the most common knee injuries.
Local Orthopedic Surgeon
Dr. Jordan Leith, MD, MHSc, FRCSC, discusses What is a Meniscus Tear Knee Injury
Behnad Honarbakhsh, MPT, BHK, CSCS, CAFCI, D.O.(c), discusses maniscus injuries in hockey.
What is a Meniscus Tear Knee Injury
Meniscus injury is an injury to the meniscus cartilage of the knee. Some people refer to it just as cartilage.
But the meniscus are two C-shaped cushions within the knee that help shock absorb the joint cartilage of the knee. And I can show you on a knee model, this is a knee looking at the front of the knee, this is the kneecap.
This is your thigh bone, and your shin bone. And as you can see, inside the knee, the meniscus cartilage can easily be seen. You’ve got your medial meniscus. You’ve got your lateral meniscus.
These are C-type rings of cartilage that protect the distal ends of your thigh bone and your shin bone, and they act as cushions or shock absorbers when you’re running or jumping and doing other activities like that, sporting activities.
These tears usually occur involving what we call the posterior horn of the meniscus, which is at the back. The medial meniscus, there’s a posterior horn, and they can extend into the body, which is the central portion of the meniscus.
And on the lateral side, it would be back here or here. If you have a bucket handle tear, that tear extends all the way around usually, and this piece would flip into the middle of the knee joint. You can get little radial tears.
All of these types of injuries cause pain to the knee on the side that the meniscus is involved. The most common meniscus injury that I see in my practice is the medial meniscus. That’s the most frequently injured of the two meniscus.
You do get lateral meniscus tears as well. So when you have a meniscus tear, you will feel pain, usually located to the joint line along that side. Not all of them require surgery. And so if you’ve injured this acutely, and have medial sided pain, some swelling, it will slow you down in whatever your athletic endeavors are.
Recommend that you treat it initially with some anti-inflammatory medications, ice, rest. Seek the services of a physiotherapist because sometimes that can settle your symptoms down.
And there are lots of people who have meniscus tears that don’t have symptoms. So they can resolve. But you can continue to irritate them with your activities.
If the physiotherapist, after a couple of months of treatment, cannot get the symptoms to settle, and you’re still disabled, then you should probably, at some point in that period, see your family doctor. And then, depending on your symptoms, he or she may wish to refer you to an orthopedic surgeon for consideration of further intervention.
If you do require surgery, it is done as a daycare procedure. It’s relatively simple. It’s an arthroscopic surgery. We use two little portal sites, where we pass a camera on either side of your kneecap, which allows us to visualize both meniscus from front to back quite easily, and any tears that we identify can be trimmed back with special instruments.
Once you’ve experienced a meniscal injury and are having pain, and it’s not setting after the first few days, you may consider seeing a physiotherapist for treatment or being referred to a physiotherapist by your family doctor.
Local Practitioners: Orthopaedic Surgeon