A quite common injury is meniscus tear that can emerge in both menisci, the lateral meniscus and the medial meniscus. A meniscus is a buffer as well as a stabilizer of the knee protecting the sensitive cartilage of the knee. If a meniscus tears, parts of it can intrude the joint and cause a stinging pain. Over a long period, it may also cause cartilage damage.
There are various symptoms of a meniscus tear. The symptoms range from strong pain in case of an acute tear of the meniscus or slight pain in case of long-term wear and tear. The acute meniscus rupture can also cause a big swelling of the knee with stinging pain. Many people also complain about knee instability. The range of motion is often restricted and accompanied by a reduced performance.
Symptoms of meniscus tear in short:
There are different causes of meniscus tear. Generally, we differentiate between meniscus ruptures that occur due to a sudden force and meniscus ruptures due to long-term strain. The likelihood of both is equal.
If a meniscus tears because of long-term strain, persons straining their knees during work are mostly affected. Examples are mountaineers, football, soccer or tennis players, gardeners, etc.
Meniscus tear due to a sudden force can happen if the leg is suddenly stretched, bended or twisted during an accident or also during sports activities like soccer or football.
A comparably small amount of persons have a congenital malformation of the meniscus that increases the risk of meniscal tear.
In case of an assumed meniscus tear, a comprehensive orthopedic examination is carried out often accompanied by imaging procedures like MRI or X-raying. Especially the MRI examination of the knee helps differentiate the different knee injuries that may cause similar or the same symptoms.
The knee MRI enables us, for example, to find out if there is a complex tear of a meniscus, a radial, bucket-handle, peripheral, horizontal or flap tear, if the meniscus has multiple tears, if parts of it are split-off, and if there are other knee injuries.
In some cases, it may be necessary to perform a knee arthroscopy, during which an endoscope is inserted through small incisions to visualize the different structures of the shoulder enlarged. If indicated, a subsequent arthroscopic surgery is possible directly after the examination.
The treatment of a meniscus tear is subject to its extent and to the damage of adjacent knee structures. Given only a minor damage of the meniscus, conservative therapy with painkilling and anti-inflammatory drugs, physiotherapy and strengthening of leg muscles as well as temporary immobilization can help. The majority of meniscus ruptures has to be operated arthroscopically.