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Common Problems: Meniscus Injury

This month at Fine Form Physio we take a look into the world of knee meniscus injuries.

Like a lot of knee injuries, a meniscus tear can be painful and debilitating. Unfortunately, it's quite common. In fact, a meniscal tear is one of the most frequently occurring cartilage injuries of the knee.

What is a meniscus injury?

Your meniscus is a piece of cartilage in your knee that cushions and stabilizes the joint. It acts as a shock absorber to the various loads and forces that pass through the knee during movement and protects your knee cartilage from wear and tear. There are two menisci within each knee joint.

Meniscus tears are common in sports like football, soccer, basketball, netball and rugby as well as noncontact sports requiring jumping and cutting. They can happen when a person changes direction suddenly while running and often occur at the same time as other knee injuries, like an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury.

The medial (inside) meniscus tends to be injured more than the lateral (outside) meniscus. This is because the medial meniscus attaches to other structures inside the knee joint, leaving it less mobile to forces acting on it compared to its lateral counterpart.

What does a meniscus tear feel like?

Signs and symptoms of a meniscus tear include:

  • Pain in the knee when walking, squatting or jumping

  • Restriction of the knee joint with or without swelling

  • A popping sensation during the injury (often following an episode of locking)

  • Difficulty bending and straightening the leg

  • A feeling that the knee may give way

  • A tendency for your knee to get "stuck" or lock up

At first, the pain may not be bad. You might even play through the injury. But once the inflammation sets in, your knee will probably hurt quite a bit.

What to do next?

The first thing to do if you have injured your knee is to see a physiotherapist. The immediate treatment of any soft tissue injury consists of the RICE protocol: rest, ice, compression, elevation and this should be followed for at least 48–72 hours. The aim is to reduce excessive bleeding within the joint which can cause further tissue damage.

The knee should be rested in an elevated position above the level of the heart with an ice pack applied for 10 minutes every two hours (never apply ice directly to the skin). A correctly sized compression bandage should be applied to limit swelling and bleeding in the joint.

During your physiotherapy consultation, we will ask questions about what has happened and examine your knee closely to determine whether it can be managed with physiotherapy alone or if an MRI scan is necessary and/or review from a knee specialist to determine whether surgery is needed.

Regardless of the initial management, physiotherapy rehabilitation will aim to:

  • Reduce pain, swelling and increase range of motion to the knee

  • Improve strength of your glutes, quads, hamstrings and calves

  • Return to sport or previous duties as soon as possible without risking further injury

When will my knee feel better?

Recovery time for your knee depends on a number of factors, including how severe your meniscus tear is. Conservative physiotherapy management can take up to 6 weeks and surgical management may take anywhere between 6-12 weeks.

How can I prevent a tear?

Meniscus tears are tough to prevent since they're usually the result of an accident. But some precautions might lower the risks of a knee injury. You should:

  • Keep your thigh muscles strong with regular exercises.

  • Warm up with light activities before taking part

  • Give your body time to rest between workouts. Fatigued muscles can increase your risk of injury.

  • Make sure your shoes have enough support and fit correctly.

  • Maintain flexibility.

🤕🤷‍♂️Need to see a Physio? Struggling with pain or Injury? 🤕🤷‍♂️

COME SEE US AT FINE FORM PHYSIOTHERAPY WE ARE OPEN AND READY TO HELP YOU. If you are in need of treatment, please do give us a call at FINE FORM PHYSIO 02 8068 6776.

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