‘Tis the season for many winter time mishaps. Take, for instance, knee injuries. Winter-related weather can cause unexpected falls, car accidents, or the incredible urge to pound Snowbowl—literally! That’s a prime recipe for a knee injury called a meniscus tear.
Often thought of as the knee “cartilage,” there are two menisci, one on the inside portion of the knee (medial) and one on the outside portion of the knee (lateral). The menisci serve to deepen the knee joint and act as shock absorbers.
In a young individual, meniscus tears are usually the result of a sharp twist of the knee while the foot is planted. This can happen during sports activities, such as skiing, snow boarding, or skating. And it can happen with trauma from a fall or car accident.
With age, the menisci begin to degenerate and aren’t able to provide the optimal “shock” absorption needed. This can also lead to small or even massive tears in the menisci.
Pain is often felt either on the inside or outside edge of the knee and sometimes globally across the knee. Swelling can emerge as a side effect. And the knee may “catch” or even “lock.” Locking is where the knee feels stuck and can’t fully straighten. The catching and locking are usually the result of a larger tear where part of the meniscus blocks the knee joint like a pencil in a door jam.
Treatment initially includes ways to reduce the pain, inflammation, and swelling. Treatment then progresses to improving the range of motion of the knee. Specific strengthening can help too.
Sometimes the tear is bothersome enough or large enough that it requires surgery to correct the problem. Surgery is often done through a scope, an approach called arthroscopic surgery.
Rehabilitation following surgery is important to restore previous levels of ability. Alpine’s physical therapists work closely with area surgeons to help rehabilitate people safely and swiftly. For more information on this and other orthopedic topics, take a few moments to visit our website, or click here to view information on “Meniscus Injuries” or “Meniscus Surgery.”