The meniscus is a rubbery C-shaped cushion that protects the knee. This disc is made of 2 pieces, called menisci that rest at the center and the outer edge of the knee. They prevent the bones of the knee from rubbing against each other, protecting the joint and balancing weight and pressure across the knee. Most patients experience a popping sensation when the meniscus is damaged or torn. Injuries to the meniscus also cause swelling in the knee and may prevent a patient from walking correctly or without pain.
The most common cause of meniscus injuries are sudden twisting or turning motions while the foot is stationary and planted on the ground. For example, if a person is playing football and is tackled while their feet are planted, it could cause a sudden jerk to the knee resulting in a tear. The risk factor for meniscus tears increases as a person gets older as this rubbery disc can become weak or thin due to the natural effects of aging. Meniscus injuries are typically classified as severe, moderate, or minor. Minor injuries cause mild discomfort and usually heal on their own, over a 2-3 week period with rest. Moderate tears cause pain in the side or center of the knee, and may impede a patient’s ability to walk as the swelling and discomfort increases over 2-3 days. However, even moderate meniscus injuries heal with rest. Severe tears can cause loose pieces of the meniscus to move into the joint, which can cause locking, catching, and popping sensations. Severe meniscus injuries may also prevent the patient from fully bending or straightening the knee. With any knee injury, it is important to seek expert medical attention from an orthopedic specialist like Dr. Coleman to diagnose the injury, its severity, and to determine the best course of treatment.
If the knee injury is severe enough to require surgical repair, Dr. Coleman typically performs an arthroscopic knee procedure to remove any loose meniscus tissue or other debris from the knee joint and to repair or remove any unstable edges. Dr. Coleman performs a thorough examination of the injury and may request MRI’s to gather more detail about the location and extent of the injury. After surgery patients need to rest and have physical therapy to rebuild strength around the knee, flexibility, the full range of motion.