Knee Meniscus Tear

The meniscus is a cartilaginous tissue found between the thigh bone and shin bone. Common causes of knee meniscus tears include trauma and degeneration.

What Is a Meniscus?

The meniscus is a cartilaginous tissue found between the thigh bone and shin bone. There are two menisci in the knee: the medial and the lateral meniscus. The medial meniscus lies on the inside of the knee joint, while the lateral meniscus lies on the outside.

What Is the Function of the Meniscus?

The meniscus serves to evenly distribute weight in the knee joint and cushion forces during high-impact activities, such as hopping, jumping and running. It also contributes to stability and movement in the knee joint

What are the Common Causes of a Knee Meniscus Tear?

Meniscus tears can occur due to:
trauma (when the knee is bent and twisted with the foot firmly plant on the ground)
degeneration (mainly in the older population)

What are the Signs and Symptoms of a Knee Meniscus Tear?

swelling at the joint line area
tenderness along the joint line
limited range of movement
locking sensation (inability to straighten the knee)
clicking or “popping” sounds during movement

What are the Risk Factors?

participation in contact sports like soccer, rugby, basketball
improper landing, jumping and cutting techniques

How to Diagnose a Knee Meniscus Tear?

Clinicians can diagnose meniscus tears/injuries through a thorough physical examination, which can include tests specific to meniscus injury, such as joint line palpation or the McMurray’s test.

Doctors may request for an X-ray to check for degenerative changes to the knee, or an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan to confirm the extent and area of the meniscal injury.

What Are the Treatments for a Knee Meniscus Tear?

Initial acute management is done through the RICE principle (rest, ice, compression and elevation). Subsequent conservative physiotherapy management will aim to reduce pain, improve range of motion/flexibility, strength and balance/control.

Procedures such as therapeutic ultrasound, interferential therapy, icing, or shortwave diathermy may be employed to reduce pain/swelling.

Meanwhile, strengthening exercises are usually targeted at the lower limb muscles, in conjunction with exercises that improve balance.

The severity and extent of the meniscus tear can affect the healing potential of the meniscus. Severe knee meniscus tears may require surgical intervention. These may include keyhole surgeries that involve trimming of torn portions of the meniscus (meniscectomy) or joining the torn meniscus together (meniscus repair). Options can be discussed with the surgeon (post-knee arthroscopy).

How Can I Prevent Meniscal Injury?

You can prevent meniscal injury by strengthening your lower limb muscles like your quadriceps (through exercises such as wall slides and lunges) and your hamstring muscles. You can also prevent meniscal injury by improving your jumping, landing and cutting techniques.

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