Chronic knee pain can be the result of several different factors. Some common causes of knee pain are torn muscles/tendons, osteoarthritis, and a torn meniscus. Our topic today will be the latter of the three. So how does one go about tearing a meniscus you might ask? Several common causes of meniscus tears are as follows:
- Sudden pivot or turn
- Deep squatting
- Direct hit on outside of knee while playing sports such as football and can also involve injuries to other tissues that make up the joint capsule surrounding the knee
Deep inside the knee joint sits the meniscus. It is positioned directly between the two larger bones that make up the knee joint (the femur and the tibia). This soft tissue structure is comprised of a substance called fibrocartilage and acts as a cushion between the joint. It also acts as a spacer between the 2 bones of the knee and helps to absorb the shock of compressive forces which occur with activities like running and jumping. Other functions of the meniscus are load bearing, load transmission and aiding in providing lubrication and nutrition to the articular cartilage.
Inside the human knee are 2 crescent shaped menisci: one positioned medially and one positioned laterally. Meniscal tears can occur to either or both of these structures and can cause severe and debilitating pain with walking and other weight bearing activities. Some common signs of a torn meniscus are a popping sensation in the knee, pain with squatting and with twisting motions of the knee, swelling, feeling as if your knee is locked, and difficulty straightening your knee. Some meniscus tears are not as debilitating as others and may not cause much restriction in ones daily activities. Once a torn meniscus begins to restrict activity it may be time to have the injury assessed by a medical professional. Your physical therapist can use one or more types of special tests to help determine if you have torn these shock absorbing structures in your knee. These tests involve placing the patients’ leg in the proper position and the examiner flexes and extends the persons knee while simultaneously rotating the joint. Another special test involves the patient in standing with feet turned in and then feet turned out while performing a squat. If either or both of these tests cause knee pain then it is likely you have a torn meniscus and further diagnostics may be necessary such as an MRI.
The severity of your meniscus tear may determine the type of treatment that your physician recommends. For minor tears your MD may recommend non surgical treatment and refer you directly to physical therapy. For more severe tears and ones that may involve other structures, surgical repair may be necessary followed by physical therapy intervention.
Physical therapy for torn meniscus will involve a specific exercise program designed to strengthen the muscles and tendons surrounding the knee joint all while protecting the integrity of the soft tissues that were repaired during your surgery. Also, as part of your recovery, your surgeon may impose certain limits on motion or types of activities while the surgical repair is healing. Physical therapy for a meniscus tear/repair may also involve various manual treatments used to increase knee mobility and to decrease pain and swelling. Treatment will also provide different types of modalities such as electrical stimulation and cold compresses to help reduce pain and inflammation.
If you feel you may have sustained an injury to your knee involving your meniscus please feel free to contact our trained staff at Elite Physical Therapy so we can evaluate and assess your injury in order help guide you toward the proper treatment.
To request an appointment, click here, or call directly to one of our three locations during regular business hours:
Cool Springs: 615-224-9810
Spring Hill: 931-489-2022
Disclaimer: The information in this blog is intended to be informational only, and is not intended to be used in lieu of medical care. Consult a doctor or a physical therapist before attempting treatment on your own.