Do you have painful knees? The upper leg bone (Femur) and lower leg bone (Tibia) meet at the knee and in between these bones exist menisci (cartilage) that absorb forces through the knee when undertaking physical activity involving the legs. There are two menisci, one on the inside (medial) and one on the outside (lateral) of the knee joint. These essentially perform as shock absorbers or cushions between the two bones and if you have damaged them this can result in painful knees.
Causes & Symptoms:
- Tearing of the meniscus can be caused by a blow to the knee or unnatural jerking and twisting of the knee joint, generally whilst participating in sports such as netball, football, basketball or rugby. Or maybe you just had an accident! The torn cartilage can interfere with and aggravate the knee joint and in most cases will be painful – the knee joint will not be as smooth and efficient as normal.
- Another cause of meniscus damage is wear-and-tear. This can be caused by exercising a lot and it can also be found in people of older age purely due to the prolonged use of the knees. In some cases you may not even know it is happening and not experience any pain until the cartilage has worn right down.
- Symptoms of a meniscus tear can be your knee giving way, your knee locking up and your knee swelling. Due to poor blood supply the damaged cartilage may not heal and can interfere with normal knee function hence causing the locking and giving way, especially when walking downwards. The aggravation within the joint will lead to swelling and since meniscus also have a limited nerve supply, the pain experienced is generally from the knee structure itself.
- Avoid sharp, forceful, unnatural twisting movements through the knee
- Wear supportive devices i.e. an elasticised knee brace (or similar) that will support then knee. Recommended if you have a history of knee injuries/problems and are still exercising and playing sport. Also recommended if you are playing a sport such as netball where constant twisting through the knee occurs.
- To assist in knee rehab, ice the knee immediately after exercise to reduce swelling around the joint. Do 20 minutes on then 20 minutes off.
- Ensure you elevate the knee above your head (lay on your back) whilst icing.
- Repeat the process for 12 to 24 hours then rest your knee.
- If the pain is severe then see you doctor or physiotherapist. Your will be examined and most likely get an x-ray and MRI scan on your knee if they believe you have a meniscus tear. Meniscus / cartilage has a limited blood supply so in many cases does not heal, hence cutting away the minimum amount of damaged cartilage is the best option and an arthroscopy may be required to do this. This removes the aggravating damaged cartilage and by removing the minimum amount of cartilage the chance of arthritis is reduced.