The C shaped rubbery piece of cartilage inside the knee referred to as the meniscus gives a shock absorption component to the knee. It is a tough & rubbery structure to help cushion the knee joint, and is divided into the medial (inside) & lateral (outside) menisci. Injuries to this structure can happen to anyone of any age, but is more prevalent within the sporting population. With this being said, the meniscus can also become damaged as easily as stepping out of your car with a twisted knee.
WHAT CAUSES MENISCAL INJURIES?
Typically, a meniscus injury is an acute condition caused by a mechanical force to the knee, but it can also be classed as a chronic condition. The differentiation between the acute type of injury and chronic type of injury are as follows.
A sudden twisting or rotation motion on the knee whilst weight bearing, such as a football player making a sudden change in direction whilst running, would be considered an acute injury. It is an event which produces a mechanical force in the knee which the meniscus cannot withstand, resulting in injury. Twisting or rotating your knee as you stand from your work desk (or even getting out of the car) can also cause a strain or tear to the meniscus. This would typically be classified as an acute injury too, but also can be an acute-on-chronic injury if you already had preexisting knee degeneration or weakness.
If you do suffer from degenerative joint changes (likely to be experienced with the elderly), your meniscus may also subsequently weaken over time and potentially cause a tear; this is considered a chronic meniscus injury.
COMMON SYMPTOMS OF MENISCUS INJURIES
If one does sustain an injury to the meniscus, whether the mechanism of injury being from a sporting injury or just awkwardly rotating the knee, symptoms include:
- An audible pop at the time of the strain or tear. The pop could be either the sound of the meniscus tearing or pressure releasing inside the knee at the time of the injury.
- Pain on the inside or outside of the knee, especially when twisting or rotating. This could indicate whether the medial or lateral meniscus has been injured.
- Catching or locking of the knee as you extend it
- The sensation of your knee giving way.
- Swelling around the medial or lateral aspect of the knee
- Knee joint stiffness & difficulties extending the knee.
DIAGNOSING MENISCAL INJURIES WITH YOUR SYDNEY PHYSIOS
If you are experiencing knee pain, particularly any of the symptoms outlined above, be sure to see one of your Sydney physiotherapist or book online for one of our services for further investigation and an accurate diagnosis. Meniscal injuries are commonly detected via a physiotherapy investigation, assessing range of motion, strength, and special tests specific to knee injuries, rule out other pathologies and confirming a diagnosis.
Further medical investigations such as an x-ray and MRI can be used to investigate if there may be something else contributing to your pain and/or more specific information on the extent of injury is needed, which would be used to determine rehabilitation or surgical needs.
SYDNEY PHYSIOTHERAPY ADVICE FOR MENISCAL INJURIES
Meniscal injuries can range from strains (repetitive movement which weakens the meniscus), degenerative tears (age related changes) or stable tears (acute injury, for example occurring during sport).
A meniscus strain or partial tear should be rested for the first 1~2 days to allow swelling and inflammation to decrease. Rest, icing, compression & elevation of the knee is recommended for the first 48hours. After this time, rehabilitation and strengthening or the knee & meniscus should begin. You should see a return to your previous level of baseline functional capacity/strength between 6~8 weeks when engaging in rehabilitation. Observing the knee over a 2~3 month period is crucial. If symptoms don’t reside, surgery may be considered.
TREATMENT BY AN INFINITE HEALTH SYDNEY PHYSIOTHERAPIST
If the injury sustained to the meniscus does not require medical intervention (surgery), utilising Physiotherapy services is recommended to improve healing & decrease recovery time. Here at Infinite Health, our highly trained physiotherapists will assist you through the healing process. Once we have decreased your pain, we will then be able to assist you back to pain-free activities, return to normal day to day activities and reduce the risk of recurrence in the future.
In your initial session, your physiotherapist will thoroughly assess the area by testing the movement of the knee joint and the muscles supporting the knee. The therapist will also look at a series of functional movements (such as a squat or lunge) to observe what state your knee is currently functioning in.
From here, the therapist will use a range of pain relief modalities such as soft tissue release, dry needling, passive muscular & joint stretching to minimize your body’s perception of the pain being experienced. Once accomplished, the therapist will prescribe rehabilitative exercises tailored to your knee to build up the strength of the injured area to prevent recurrence & make your knees as resilient as possible!
For expert help and treatment, visit one of our clinics or sign up for one of our online services. We'd love to help.