What are Meniscus Tears?
There are two wedge “c” shaped pieces of cartilage found within the knee joint that act like “shock absorbers” between the femur (thighbone) and the tibia (shinbone) known as the meniscus. These two tough and rubbery cartilage discs also help assist the knee ligaments with joint stability. When injury occurs to the meniscus, patients often experience pain, clicking or popping, swelling and stiffness. A meniscus tear is quite common in both the athletic and non-athletic population since it can be caused by a twisting event or through natural wear and tear of the joint. Dr. Jervis Yau, Santa Barbara, Goleta, Santa Maria and Ventura, California orthopedic knee specialist, is highly trained and experienced at diagnosing and treating injuries to the meniscal cartilage of the knee.
There is a meniscus located on both the medial and lateral compartments of the knee joint known as the medial and lateral meniscus, respectively. Both absorb shock when the knee is placed under stress from walking, running, squatting and participating in sports. If a meniscus tear occurs during one of these activities or from the meniscal tissue becoming brittle from aging, the meniscus loses its ability to function as intended. Over time, this can cause degeneration of the articular cartilage found on the ends of each bone and lead to development of painful osteoarthritis.
What are the Symptoms of a Meniscus Tear?
Patients often report pain, swelling and stiffness after sustaining a meniscus tear. It may also cause clicking, catching and locking of the joint during certain movements. Many patients may also experience their knee giving way when the torn meniscus gets caught within the joint. Commonly, patients are able to walk immediately following the meniscus tear but may lose that ability over a few days as the knee joint gradually stiffens and becomes more swollen.
How are Meniscus Tears Diagnosed?
Dr. Yau will perform a complete medical review and physical examination to diagnose the meniscus tear. He will look for changes or deformities in the injured knee during the examination. He will also perform tests that involve bending the patient’s knee and rotating the leg inward to assess pain level or clicking as the leg is straightened. Dr. Yau will commonly perform x-rays to evaluate the bony structure of the knee. Furthermore, MRI scan is typically obtained to confirm the diagnosis and rule out other additional injuries to the knee.