Table of Contents
- Torn meniscus facts
- Introduction to the knee
- What is a torn meniscus?
- What causes a meniscus to tear?
- What are symptoms and signs of a torn meniscus?
- How do health-care professionals diagnose a meniscus tear?
- What types of doctors treat a torn meniscus?
- What is the treatment for a torn meniscus?
- Can a meniscus tear heal without surgery?
- What is rehabilitation and recovery like for a patient with a meniscus tear?
- What are recommended exercises once a torn meniscus has been repaired?
- What is the prognosis of a torn meniscus? Is it possible to prevent a torn meniscus?
Introduction to the knee
The knee is the largest joint in the body. The knee allows the leg to bend where the femur (thighbone) attaches to the tibia (shinbone). The knee flexes and extends, allowing the body to perform many activities, from walking and running to climbing and squatting. There are a variety of structures that surround the knee and allow it to bend and that protect the knee joint from injury.
The quadriceps and hamstring muscles are responsible for moving the knee joint. When the quadriceps muscles (located on the front the thigh) contract, the knee extends or straightens. The hamstring muscles, located on the back of the thigh, are responsible for flexing or bending the knee. These muscles are also important in protecting the knee from being injured by acting to stabilize the knee and preventing it from being pushed in directions that it isn't meant to go.
There are four ligaments that stabilize the knee joint at rest and during movement: the medical and lateral collateral ligaments (MCL, LCL) and the anterior and posterior cruciate ligaments (ACL, PCL).
Cartilage within the joint provides the cushioning to protect the bones from the routine stresses of walking, running, and climbing. The medial and lateral meniscus are two thicker wedge-shaped pads of cartilage attached to top of the tibia (shin bone), called the tibial plateau. Each meniscus is curved in a C-shape, with the front part of the cartilage called the anterior horn and the back part called the posterior horn.
There is also articular cartilage that lines the joint surfaces of the bones within the knee, including the tibia, femur, and kneecap (patella). The terminology torn knee cartilage refers to damage to one of the C-shaped menisci of the knee between the femur and tibia.
As with any injury in the body, when the meniscus is damaged, irritation occurs. If the surface that allows the bones to glide over each other in the knee joint is no longer smooth, pain can occur with each flexion or extension. The meniscus can be damaged because of a single event or it can gradually wear out because of age and overuse.
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Johnson, D.H., and D.A. Pedowitz. Practical Orthopedic Sports Medicine and Arthroscopy. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2007.
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