The meniscus is a C-shaped pad made of cartilage within the knee joint. Each knee joint has two menisci, one on the medial aspect (inner edge) and one on the lateral aspect (outer edge).
The menisci provide several vital functions in the knee joint:
- They provide lubrication and nutrition of the joint.
- They increase surface contact within the joint for improved weight distribution.
- They provide shock absorption during weight-bearing activities.
Meniscus tears often happen during twisting activities when the knee is bent and the foot is planted. It is also possible for the menisci to get injured gradually with age and overuse. Signs and symptoms of a meniscus injury include the following:
- swelling of the knee joint – the amount can range depending on the severity of the meniscus injury
- pain within the joint, often worse with twisting or squatting activities
- a feeling that the knee is going to lock, buckle or give way without warning
Depending on the location and severity of the meniscal injury, it can often be treated successfully with physiotherapy. Physiotherapists are trained to treat meniscus injuries through strengthening areas of weakness around the knee (or other areas of the body which may be contributing to poor mechanics at the knee). They can also use manual techniques and modalities to provide pain relief and they can give advice regarding activity modification and return to sport.
If the tear is too severe or in a location of the meniscus with poor blood supply, arthroscopic surgery may be required. If this is the case, physiotherapy is still an important part of the process. It helps reduce swelling initially after surgery, and then improve range of motion, strength and stability of the knee joint with the goal of returning to full function as soon as possible.
Written By: Reanna Montopoli, FCAMPT Physiotherapist