The knee joint has two C-shaped pieces of cartilage known as the menisci that sit between the shinbone and thighbone, on the inside and outside of the knee. The meniscus acts like a cushion absorbing shock and stabilising the joint, so when torn, it results in instability of the knee joint. Tearing of a meniscus is a common painful and debilitating knee injury.
Each of your knees has two menisci — a medial meniscus which sits on the inside of the knee and a lateral meniscus on the outside of the knee. Either of the menisci can be injured when the knee is twisted or rotated. Meniscus tears are common during sports injuries when an athlete turns their upper leg while their foot is planted, with a bent knee.
Those who play contact sports or sports that involve jumping and cutting, aggressive pivoting or sudden stops and turns are at risk for this type of injury. Older people are also more likely to have degenerative meniscus tears as the worn tissue becomes prone to tearing.
For most people, a meniscus tear or tearing of the menisci may involve symptoms such as:
- Pain in the back or either side of the knee
- Swelling of the knee
- Stiffness in the joint
- Catching or locking of the knee joint
- Inability to bend or straighten the knee
- A snapping sensation
Treatment of a meniscal tear will depend on the severity and location of the tear as well as the age and activity level of the patient. If the knee is stable, non-surgical treatments may involve anti-inflammatory medications, rest and compression of the knee joint. After recovery, physiotherapy may be done to strengthen and enhance the mobility of the joint.
While some meniscal tears may heal on their own, others may not and may need surgery. This is the case for unstable locking symptoms, and thus surgery may be done by Dr Pienaar to repair a torn meniscus or trim out the torn portion of the meniscus. This is generally done using a minimally invasive procedure known as arthroscopy. By inserting a small camera through a tiny incision, the knee joint can be visualised. Next thin tools can be used to operate and repair the tear. This procedure allows for better recovery.