Not all types of joint pain are caused by arthritis. Some of them can be due to a meniscus tear. Learn about its causes and symptoms in this blog post.
In this article:
- How Common Is a Meniscus Tear?
- Anatomy of the Knee and Meniscus Tears
- Causes of Meniscus Tears
- How Older Adults Develop Torn Meniscus
- Meniscus Tear Symptoms
- Complications of Meniscus Tears
Meniscus Tear | Why Does It Happen, and How Do You Know You Have It?
Meniscus Definition: a crescent-shaped fibrocartilaginous structure found in the joints
How Common Is a Meniscus Tear?
A meniscus tear can take an athlete out of a game. It can stop an employee from going to work and prevent someone from taking care of a family. It is among the most common knee injuries, according to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. Some people are at an increased risk of a torn meniscus.
When people say they have torn cartilage in their knee, they usually mean they have a torn meniscus. The condition is common. Healthline says more than 500,000 meniscal tears happen in the United States every year. It is also a type of injury that is becoming more common in children. Youngsters are now participating in organized sports at earlier ages.
Anatomy of the Knee and Meniscus Tears
Three bones come together to form the knee joint: the thighbone, the shinbone, and the kneecap. Each knee has two menisci, which are C-shaped pieces of cartilage. The meniscus acts as a shock absorber between the shinbone and thighbone. This cartilage is tough and rubbery to help cushion and stabilize the knee joint.
Even though the menisci are tough, they can tear. Medical professionals describe them according to how it looks and where it occurs in the cartilage.
Meniscus tears often happen along with other knee injuries. For example, a meniscus tear may occur with anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears.
Causes of Meniscus Tears
Any activity that causes the forceful twisting or rotation of the knee can tear the meniscus:
- aggressive pivoting or sudden stops and turns
- deep squatting
- heavy lifting,
- age-related changes on the knee
- contact sports, such as football, basketball, tennis
People who are under the age of 30 are more likely to suffer a meniscus tear as a result of an acute injury while playing a sport or engaging in other physical activity, according to Sports-Health. A torn meniscus can be the outcome of a blow to the knee from the front or side. It can happen during a football tackle or when a basketball player hits the floor.
Over-rotation of the knee during sports can tear a meniscus. It can happen when an athlete changes direction or stops quickly. Planting a foot awkwardly or on an uneven surface can tear this cartilage. Hyperextension of the knee and falls can also tear the menisci.
How Older Adults Develop a Torn Meniscus
Older adults are at higher risk of a meniscus tear. In young people, the meniscus is tough and rubbery. It can withstand the force of exercise and injury. As a person ages, forceful and sudden movements can cause the meniscus to thin and become fragile. Doctors refer to this degeneration as osteoarthritis. It can make the cartilage of the meniscus more vulnerable to tearing.
Doing repetitive squatting or kneeling movements can tear the meniscus in older adults. It means older plumbers, carpet layers, and other physical laborers are at a higher risk of torn menisci. Sports injuries can be even more hazardous for older knees than for younger ones. Meniscus tears sometimes happen for no apparent reason in older adults.
People of all ages can reduce the risk of meniscus tear symptoms by performing leg-strengthening exercises. Strong leg muscles help stabilize the knee joint and prevent falls. Maintaining proper form during exercise that puts pressure on the knee is also important to reducing meniscus tears. Warming up, using proper footwear and gear, lacing footwear properly, taking joint supplements, and using proper technique can help control the causes of a meniscus tear.
Meniscus Tear Symptoms
Torn meniscus symptoms:
- discomfort (more noticeable when the person twists or rotates his or her knee)
- a popping sensation in the affected area
- difficulty straightening the knee
- feeling as if the knee is locked in place
Anyone experiencing discomfort, swelling, or problems moving his or her knee after a knee injury should see a doctor. Proper treatment can reduce the symptoms and improve a person’s recovery outcome.
Conservative treatment may reduce meniscus tear symptoms in some cases. This includes ice, rest, and medication. At other times, advanced medical care or surgery may be necessary.
Complications of Meniscus Tears
Complications of a torn meniscus can include knee instability, problems moving the knee normally, and persistent knee discomfort. Knee injuries, such as meniscus tears, increase the risk of osteoarthritis. These problems brought on by meniscus tears can also worsen the symptoms.
For more information on meniscus tears, symptoms, and treatment, watch this video from Johns Hopkins Medicine:
Anyone experiencing meniscus tear symptoms should make an appointment with his or her doctor. It is more vital if the symptoms last for more than a few days or occur after an injury. With care, a torn meniscus can heal quickly. A medical professional, trainer, or health expert can provide more information on its symptoms and causes.
Have you experienced a meniscus tear? What did you do to manage it? Share your recovery stories below!