A meniscal tear is a type of knee injury that involves damage to the meniscus, which is a C-shaped piece of cartilage that provides cushioning and stability to the knee joint. The meniscus is located between the thighbone (femur) and shinbone (tibia) in the knee joint, and it helps to distribute weight and absorb shock during movement. A meniscal tear can occur due to sudden twisting or a forceful impact to the knee, or it may develop gradually over time due to wear and tear on the knee joint.
Causes of Meniscal Tear
A meniscal tear is usually caused by a sudden twisting or turning movement of the knee joint while the foot is planted on the ground. This type of injury is common in sports that involve cutting, jumping, and twisting movements, such as basketball, soccer, and skiing. Meniscal tears can also occur due to wear and tear on the knee joint, which can weaken the meniscus over time and make it more susceptible to injury. This is more common in older adults, especially those with a history of knee arthritis. Other factors that may increase the risk of a meniscal tear include obesity, previous knee injuries, and anatomical abnormalities in the knee joint, such as a misaligned kneecap or a leg length discrepancy.
Signs and Symptoms of Meniscal Tear
The signs and symptoms of a meniscal tear can vary depending on the severity and location of the tear. Some common signs and symptoms of a meniscal tear include:
- Knee pain: The pain may be located on the inside or outside of the knee, depending on which meniscus is affected. The pain may be worsened by activity or bending the knee.
- Swelling: Swelling around the knee joint may occur within a few hours of the injury. The knee may appear swollen, and it may be difficult to bend or straighten the knee.
- Stiffness: The knee may feel stiff, especially in the morning or after a period of inactivity.
- Clicking or popping: A torn meniscus may cause the knee to make a clicking or popping sound when it is moved.
- Limited range of motion: The knee may be difficult to move, and it may feel as though it is locked in place.
- Instability: The knee may feel unstable or give way when weight is put on it.
It is important to see a healthcare professional if you experience any of these symptoms, as they may indicate a meniscal tear or other knee injury that requires medical attention.
Treatment Meniscal Tear
Physiotherapy is often used as a non-surgical treatment option for meniscal tears, particularly for partial tears or tears that are not severe. Physiotherapy treatment for a meniscal tear may include the following:
Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation (RICE): The physiotherapist may recommend rest, ice, compression, and elevation to reduce pain and swelling in the knee.
Strengthening exercises: The physiotherapist may design a strengthening exercise program to improve the strength and stability of the muscles around the knee, such as the quadriceps, hamstrings, and calf muscles. These exercises may include knee extensions, leg curls, and calf raises.
Range of motion exercises: The physiotherapist may also prescribe range of motion exercises to help improve the flexibility and mobility of the knee joint.
Proprioceptive training: Proprioceptive training is a type of exercise that helps to improve balance and coordination. This can be particularly important in preventing future knee injuries.
Modalities: The physiotherapist may also use modalities such as ultrasound, electrical stimulation, or heat therapy to help relieve pain and reduce swelling.
Bracing or taping: In some cases, the physiotherapist may recommend the use of a knee brace or tape to provide additional support to the knee joint.
It is important to follow the physiotherapist’s treatment plan carefully and to avoid activities that may aggravate the injury. Depending on the severity of the meniscal tear, surgery may be necessary to repair or remove the damaged tissue.
If you have any questions or would like to speak to a therapist about meniscal tear please call us at 03 9836 1126.
Dua, S., Levine, W. N., & Bansal, A. (2021). Early progressive physical therapy is effective for meniscal tear and knee osteoarthritis: a randomized controlled trial. The American Journal of Sports Medicine