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Meniscus Injuries and Knee Pain

Introduction

The meniscus is a vital structure in the knee joint, acting as a shock absorber and providing stability during movement. However, it is susceptible to injury, particularly among athletes and individuals who engage in repetitive knee movements. A meniscus injury can cause knee pain and affect overall joint function. This blog post aims to provide an understanding of meniscus injuries, their impact on knee health, and effective approaches to manage knee pain and promote recovery.

Anatomy of the Meniscus

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The knee joint contains two crescent-shaped pieces of cartilage known as menisci (singular: meniscus). Each knee has two menisci—the medial meniscus on the inner side of the knee and the lateral meniscus on the outer side. The menisci are positioned between the femur (thigh bone) and the tibia (shin bone), and their role is to distribute weight, absorb impact, and enhance joint stability.

Common Causes of Meniscus Injuries

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Meniscus injuries often occur during activities that involve twisting or sudden changes in direction. Some common causes of meniscus injuries include:

  • 1. Sports Injuries: Athletes involved in sports that require rapid pivoting or squatting, such as soccer, basketball, and skiing, are at higher risk of meniscus injuries.
  • 2. Age-Related Degeneration: As people age, the menisci become more prone to degeneration, making them more susceptible to tears with less forceful movements.
  • 3. Traumatic Injury: Direct impact or trauma to the knee, such as a tackle or fall, can lead to meniscus tears.
  • 4. Repetitive Knee Movements: Repetitive knee movements, especially in individuals with improper form or technique, can contribute to meniscus injuries over time.

Symptoms of Meniscus Injuries

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Meniscus injuries can cause a range of symptoms, depending on the location and severity of the tear. Common symptoms include:

  • 1. Knee Pain: Pain is often felt along the joint line on the inner or outer side of the knee, depending on the location of the meniscus tear.
  • 2. Swelling: The knee may become swollen and feel tender to the touch.
  • 3. Limited Range of Motion: Difficulty fully straightening or bending the knee due to the presence of the torn meniscus.
  • 4. Clicking or Locking Sensation: Some individuals may experience a clicking or locking sensation during knee movement.

Diagnosis and Treatment

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If a meniscus injury is suspected, a healthcare provider or physiotherapist will perform a thorough examination and may order imaging tests, such as an MRI, to confirm the diagnosis. Treatment options for meniscus injuries include:

  • 1. Rest and Ice: Initially, resting the knee and applying ice can help reduce pain and swelling.
  • 2. Compression and Elevation: Compression with a bandage and elevating the leg can further aid in reducing swelling.
  • 3. Physiotherapy: A physiotherapist can design a personalized rehabilitation program to strengthen the muscles around the knee and improve joint stability.
  • 4. Knee Bracing: In some cases, a knee brace may be recommended to provide support and reduce strain on the injured meniscus.
  • 5. Arthroscopic Surgery: For more severe meniscus tears that do not respond to conservative treatment, arthroscopic surgery may be necessary to repair or remove the damaged tissue.

Exercises for Meniscus Injury Rehabilitation

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During meniscus injury rehabilitation, specific exercises are often prescribed to promote healing, improve knee function, and prevent future injuries. Some effective exercises include:

  • 1. Straight Leg Raises: Lie on your back and lift one leg off the ground while keeping it straight. Hold for a few seconds before lowering it back down. Repeat on the other leg.
  • 2. Hamstring Curls: Lie on your stomach with your knees bent. Lift one foot toward your glutes, then lower it back down. Repeat on the other leg.
  • 3. Step-Ups: Step up onto a raised platform with one leg, then step back down. This exercise helps improve balance and strength in the legs.

Preventing Meniscus Injuries

Although some meniscus injuries may be unavoidable, there are preventive measures that individuals can take to reduce the risk of injury:

  • 1. Strengthening Exercises: Regularly engage in exercises that strengthen the muscles supporting the knee joint, such as quadriceps and hamstrings.
  • 2. Proper Technique: Practice proper form and technique during sports and exercises to minimize unnecessary stress on the knee.
  • 3. Warm-Up and Cool Down: Always warm up before physical activity and cool down afterward to prepare the muscles and joints for movement.
  • 4. Appropriate Footwear: Wear appropriate footwear for sports and activities to provide adequate support and cushioning for the knees.

Conclusion

Meniscus injuries can be painful and affect knee function, but with the right diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation, individuals can recover and return to their regular activities. Proper strengthening exercises and preventive measures play a crucial role in reducing the risk of meniscus injuries and promoting overall knee health.

Visit The Bone & Joint Center Singapore for joint pain management.

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