Knee Injuries of the Meniscus

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The knee is one of the most commonly injured parts of the body. This is because the knee is used everyday, especially in sports. Football, soccer and basketball are just some of the contact sports where knee injuries can occur. The usual knee injury encountered in these fields are twisting and turning of the knee which can damage its accessory structures. One delicate structure of the knee is the meniscus.

The meniscus is a piece of cartilage that acts as a spongy shock absorber that separates the thighbone and shinbone. It is a thick rubber-like pad of cartilage tissue which is C-shaped and become thinner towards the middle of the joint. The menisci cartilages sit on top of, and are in addition to, the usual thin layer of cartilage which covers the top of the tibia. It is easily injured by the force which rotates the knee while bearing weight. A partial or total tear may occur when a person quickly twists or rotates the upper leg while the foot stays still.

Individuals who experience a meniscus tear usually experience pain and swelling as their primary presenting symptoms. This is brought about by the injury to the knee which causes inflammation of the surrounding cells, compressing the nerves around it causing pain. Swelling may occur soon after the injury if blood vessels are disrupted, or swelling may occur several hours later. Another manifestation is inability of the person to stretch the knee, and at times, it may lock the knee to the point that there will be less to no range of motion that can be done. The locking of the knee can be brought about by a piece of torn cartilage caught between moving parts of the knee joint, limiting its motion or locking the joint. Although some symptoms of meniscal injury may disappear without medical management, still if it becomes frequent, this must necessitate a medical treatment.

Diagnostic procedures are essential to determine the extent of damage to the meniscus, also to rule out whether other parts of the knees are affected. He doctor may perform a physical examination and take x rays of the knee. The examination may include a test in which the doctor bends the leg, and then rotates the leg outward and inward while extending it.

Treatment plan for a torn meniscus depends upon the finding on the diagnostic test. Also, the activity level of the patient is another factor that can affect the treatment plan.  Initially, treatment of a torn meniscus comprise of stabilization of the affected limb to make sure that further damage to the surrounding areas will be prevented, resting the knee to allow for the swelling to subside, ice compress to help lessen the inflammation of the affected knee, and elevation of the affected limb. However, this treatment might only work for a mildly injured meniscus. If the injury is severe, then surgical treatment might be advised by the surgeon.

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