Understanding the Meniscus: An Essential Component of Knee Health

Understanding the Meniscus: An Essential Component of Knee Health

The meniscus, often referred to as the “shock absorber” of the knee, is a vital structure that plays a crucial role in maintaining knee stability and function. Composed of two C-shaped pieces of cartilage nestled between the femur and tibia bones, the menisci act as cushions, distributing weight evenly across the knee joint and providing stability during movement.

Anatomy and Function

Located within the knee joint, the menisci are tough, rubbery tissues that help to absorb shock and reduce friction between the femur and tibia bones. They also serve to stabilise the knee, preventing excessive movement and providing support during activities such as walking, running, and jumping.

The menisci have a crescent shape, with the larger medial meniscus on the inner side of the knee and the smaller lateral meniscus on the outer side. Each meniscus is attached to the joint capsule and ligaments of the knee, ensuring proper positioning and function.

Common Injuries

Despite their resilience, the menisci are susceptible to injury, particularly during activities that involve twisting, pivoting, or sudden changes in direction. Meniscus tears are among the most common knee injuries, occurring as a result of traumatic injury or degenerative changes associated with ageing or repetitive stress.

Symptoms of a Meniscus Injury

Meniscus injuries can cause a range of symptoms, including:

  1. Pain, especially along the joint line of the knee
  2. Swelling and stiffness
  3. Difficulty fully straightening or bending the knee
  4. Popping or clicking sensations
  5. Feeling of instability or “giving way” in the knee

Diagnosis and Treatment

Diagnosing a meniscus injury typically involves a thorough physical examination, along with imaging tests such as MRI or X-ray to confirm the diagnosis and assess the extent of the injury. Treatment options for meniscus injuries depend on several factors, including the severity and location of the tear, the individual’s age and activity level, and the presence of any underlying knee conditions.

Conservative treatment measures such as rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE), along with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) and physical therapy, may be recommended for minor meniscus tears or for individuals who are not good candidates for surgery.

Surgical options may be considered for larger or complex tears, particularly those that interfere with knee function or cause persistent symptoms. Surgical procedures for meniscus tears may include arthroscopic repair, partial meniscectomy (removal of the torn portion of the meniscus), or meniscus transplant for irreparable tears.

Conclusion

The meniscus plays a crucial role in knee health and function, serving as a vital component of the joint’s stability and shock absorption mechanism. Understanding the anatomy of the meniscus, common injuries, and treatment options is essential for maintaining knee health and preventing long-term complications associated with meniscus injuries. Prompt diagnosis and appropriate treatment can help individuals recover from meniscus injuries and return to their normal activities with improved function and reduced risk of future injury.

 

If you feel you are struggling with a meniscus issue, our highly qualified sports therapists and physiotherapists can help design a robust rehabilitation plan. Contact us for more information.