Meniscal Tear: Damage to The Meniscus
Our knee joint is formed when three bones – femur (thigh bone), tibia (shin bone) and patella (kneecap) – meet. The tough and rubbery cartilages act as cushions or shock absorbers for the femur and tibia, which keep the joint stable and movements smooth. These cartilages are called the Meniscus. Damage to the meniscus is called meniscal tear. This is not exclusively a sports injury, though is very common among athletes.
Meniscal Tear Causes and Symptoms:
A substantial percentage of patients who experience meniscal tear are athletes. Sports activities where the players are at higher risk include football, rugby, tennis and basketball. A sudden squatting or twisting motion with bad posture of the knee can often result in meniscal tear. A direct clash can also cause such tears. Often in old age, the cartilages are weakened and tissues are degenerated and worn out, which makes them susceptible to meniscal wear. In such cases, no big impact is required. A very minor movement, such as getting off the chair or sudden twist while walking inside the home can result in a meniscal wear.
It is possible to experience the tear taking place, as it happens there may be a ‘pop’ with little or no discomfort. An athlete can play for three days with a torn meniscus and people can walk normally with one. It takes two to three days for the tear to show its impact. In 48 to 72 hours, the knee gets stiffer with swelling. However, there are certain symptoms which can help you differentiate between a meniscal tear and other injuries. These are:
- Stiff and swollen knees
- Locked knees
- A sense of melt down or giving way of the knees
- Incapable of normal movement of the knee
Meniscal Tear Diagnosis
If there is any kind of pain or suspected injury, go to the doctor. The physical examination of your knees and some tests like McMurray’s test can be performed before diagnosing. To confirm a diagnosis, imaging tests like X-ray, MRI, ultrasound and arthroscopy can be prescribed. Only after seeing the reports, can treatment and management of meniscal tear be started.
Meniscal Tear Treatment and Management:
While waiting to see a doctor and arrive at a firm diagnosis, you should carry on with the RICE mode of treatment. This is an acronym, which stands for
- Rest: Rest means giving rest to your knees. Use crutches to walk so that your knees do not bear any weight
- Ice: You should use an ice pack for half an hour every two to three hours.
- Compression: You can use a crepe or elastic bandage to wrap your knees. This will reduce the swelling.
- Elevation: Keep your knees elevated with the help of traction.
In case of excruciating pain, take a non steroidal anti-inflammatory drug like Ibuprofen, Aspirin etc. In the worst cases, you may need surgery if you don’t respond to the mode of treatment that you doctor recommends for you.
A meniscal tear is not a very serious problem if treated promptly. It is advisable to deal with any pain or injury immediately so as to avoid irreparable damage to your knee.