What is a meniscus?
Our meniscus, or menisci, are horseshoe shaped pieces of fibrocartilage that sit between the end of the femur (thigh) and the top of the tibia (shin) in our knees. In each knee, we have a medial (inner side of knee) and a lateral (outside of knee) portion, each with anterior (front) and posterior (back) sections.
Because of their position between the bones in the knee, the menisci act as shock absorbers within the knee joint, taking and dispersing load through the bones, as well as providing a source of nourishment for the knee joint itself.
How do menisci get injured?
- Traumatic meniscal injury
This often occurs acutely when excessive force is applied to a ‘normal’ meniscus during activity, or in some cases, when mild stress is applied to a weakened meniscus. Most often, traumatic meniscal injuries are seen in sporting populations, and can often be in conjunction with other ligament injuries. The meniscus can become injured when the knee is rapidly twisted when slightly bent with the foot grounded, or with repetitive and sustained squatting positions. This can occur to anyone at any age, where significant force is placed through the knee.
- Degenerative meniscal tears
These tears often occur in the absence of acute trauma and occur most commonly in our 40s and 50s. This is often due to progressive degeneration of the meniscus over the course of our lifetime. Men seem to be more prone to degenerative meniscal tears, however depending on the level of physical activity or joint injury we may have sustained throughout our lifetime, our risk of degenerative meniscal tear may change.
Recent research has suggested that degenerative meniscal tears may be an early sign of osteoarthritis in a knee joint.
What are the symptoms of a meniscal tear?
Many people will experience pain deep in the inside or outside of the knee, clicking of the knee, and in some cases locking of the knee when moving or giving way unexpectedly. These symptoms arise from the torn area of meniscus moving under the femur as we walk or run. In degenerative meniscal tears, there is also sometimes problems with the patella (kneecap) or other cartilage within the knee. This can often cause pain with squatting and kneeling, or activities that require a lot of knee bending.
How can Enhance Physiotherapy help?
It is important that an accurate diagnosis is made from the outset to best optimise rehabilitation and return to normal function. The Physiotherapists’ at Enhance Physiotherapy are experts in diagnosing and managing a wide range of knee injuries, including meniscal injuries, across all populations. Treatment for meniscal tears often includes strengthening and improving control around the knee and hip, dispersing load and supporting the injured knee. Our Physiotherapists can guide you through a tailored exercise program to reduce pain and get you back to the activities you enjoy. We are also able to identify those who may require orthopaedic review.