Meniscus tear is another common injury that affects the knee joint. The meniscus are 'C' shaped discs, made of tough cartilage called fibrocartilage. They help to improve the fit between the femur (thigh bone) and the tibia (shin bone) and are important for distributing load and absorbing shock at the knee joint.
If you suffer from meniscus tear or are seeking to prevent its occurrence it is important to follow the information in this article. In addition, adding a few simple stretches to your fitness program will also help. To get you started on a safe and effective stretching routine learn more about The Stretching Handbook and how it can improve your fitness.
|Meniscus tear image from
Principles of Anatomy and Physiology
by G.J. Tortora and N.P. Anagnostakos.
The picture on the right is a front-on view of the bones, tendons and ligaments that make up the right knee. In the middle of the picture there are two round structures called the "Lateral Meniscus" and the "Medial Meniscus." It is this structure that is damaged in a meniscus injury.
How are the Meniscus Injured?
A meniscus tear is usually the result of either a traumatic incident or degeneration. Traumatic tears are most common in physically active people under the age of 45, while degenerative tears are more common in the over 40's age group.
The meniscus receive very little blood flow. In fact, most of the meniscus receive no blood flow at all, which makes recovery extremely difficult.
Most traumatic meniscus tears are the result of twisting the knee or a sudden impact to the knee. While degenerative tears are associated with the aging process and result from a breakdown in the collagen fibers that make up the meniscus.
Another common problem associated with a meniscus tear is 'joint locking.' Joint locking prevents the knee joint from either fully straightening or fully bending and is the result of a piece of the torn cartilage being lodged within the knee joint.
Treatment for Meniscus Tear
A minor meniscus injury is just like any other soft tissue injury and should be treated accordingly. This involves the application of R.I.C.E.R. (R) rest, (I) ice, (C) compression, (E) elevation and obtaining a (R) referral for appropriate medical treatment. The following two points are of most importance.
How do you apply ice? Crushed ice in a plastic bag is usually best. However, blocks of ice, commercial cold packs and bags of frozen peas will all do fine. Even cold water from a tap is better than nothing at all.
When using ice, be careful not to apply it directly to the skin. This can cause "ice burns" and further skin damage. Wrapping the ice in a damp towel generally provides the best protection for the skin.
How long, how often? This is the point where few people agree. Let me give you some figures to use, as a rough guide, and then I will give you some advice from personal experience. The most common recommendation is to apply ice for 20 minutes every 2 hours for the first 48 to 72 hours.
These figures are a good starting point, but remember they are only a guide. You must take into account that some people are more sensitive to cold than others are. Also, be aware that children and elderly people have a lower tolerance to ice and cold. Finally, people with circulatory problems are also more sensitive to ice. Remember to keep these things in mind when treating yourself or someone else with ice.
Personally, I recommend that people use their own judgement when applying ice to them self. For some people, 20 minutes is too much. For others, especially well conditioned athletes, they can leave ice on for up to an hour at a time. The individual should make the decision as to how long the ice should stay on.
My personal recommendation is that people should apply ice for as long as it is comfortable. Obviously, there will be a slight discomfort from the cold, but as soon as pain or excessive discomfort is experienced, it is time to remove the ice. It is much better to apply ice for 3 to 5 minutes a couple of time an hour, than not at all.
During the first 24 to 72 hours after an injury, be sure to avoid any form of heat at the injury site. This includes heat lamps, heat creams, spas, Jacuzzi's and saunas. Avoid all movement and massage of the injured area. Also, avoid excessive alcohol. All these things will increase the bleeding, swelling and pain of your injury. Avoid them at all costs.
Surgery isn't always necessary for a meniscus tear and in some cases the individual can lead a totally normal life without any surgery at all. Your doctor or physical therapist can perform a number of tests to help determine the extent of the damage of the torn meniscus. An x-ray and MRI are two common tests used.
If surgery is necessary there are two options: a meniscus repair; or a meniscectomy.
After surgery, expect to be on crutches for at least three weeks. Full recovery, using a comprehensive rehabilitation program will generally take about three to four months and athletes involved in high demand sports can be back on the field in about six to eight months.
Meniscus Tear Prevention
Although it is important to be able to treat meniscus injury, prevention should be your first priority. So what are some of the things you can do to help prevent a meniscus injury?