If you have injured your knee, your orthopedic doctor will typically ask you a couple of questions. Do you remember when the injury occurred? Did the pain come on suddenly or gradually?
A meniscus tear is caused by a twisting action of the knee, which tears the knee cartilage called the meniscus. If your knee pain is due to a torn meniscus, you may be experiencing pain as well as swelling, stiffness, clicking or locking, and the inability to extend or move your knee. Each knee has two menisci, which are moon-shaped sections of cartilage that together protect the upper leg bone (femur, or thighbone) from the larger lower leg bone (tibia, or shinbone) and prevent them from rubbing together during movement.
Meniscal injuries in the knee are very common in active people of all ages. However, if left untreated, a meniscus tear can result in permanent damage to your knee, including arthritis. Let’s talk about what a meniscal tear is, how it occurs, and when to seek the advice of an orthopedic doctor for your knee pain.
Anatomy of the Knee
The knee joint carries one of the biggest loads in the entire body, so it is indeed the largest joint in the body – even larger than the hip or shoulder. Depending on what you are doing at the time (walking, running, jumping, climbing), the stress on your knees can equal five times your body weight. Having healthy knees is therefore essential for good mobility and staying active.
The knee joint comprises three bones: the lower end of the thighbone, the upper end of the shinbone, and the kneecap (patella). In a healthy knee, these bones move smoothly over each other, creating normal movement.
Each knee also has two moon-shaped pads of cartilage called menisci. One is called the lateral meniscus and is located near the outside of your knee, and the other is the medial meniscus located on the inside area of the joint – where the knees touch each other when your legs are together.
Each meniscus provides the padding and lubrication necessary to protect your bones while moving the joint. The medial meniscus has a very strong attachment where it meets the medial collateral ligament (MCL). Because of this strong attachment, the medial meniscus is more prone to injury if you twist your knee. While the lateral meniscus is also at risk of tearing, this doesn’t happen as often because of the anatomy of your knee.
What Activities Can Cause a Meniscus Tear?
Meniscal tears usually occur during rotation or twisting, such as when performing the following activities:
- Household chores
When Should I Suspect a Torn Meniscus?
Some people have pain when they tear a meniscus, and some don’t. Many people can continue performing their activities without difficulty after the tear unless it is severe. Others describe a tearing or popping noise when it occurs.
Within 24 hours after a meniscus tear, the knee may become painful and swollen. Twisting and moving the knee will make the pain worse. Your knee may feel like it’s stiff, giving out, unstable, or you may feel popping or locking. Even if you aren’t aware of when you were injured, these symptoms should make you consider that you may have a meniscus tear.
Knee Doctor in Raleigh, NC
If you have knee pain or a knee injury, Dr. Brett Gilbert will be happy to review your health history with you and give you a thorough examination. If you need additional tests, he will order them to provide you with the answers you are looking for. He can help to alleviate your knee pain through various surgical or noninvasive methods as you desire.
Our friendly team is here to answer your questions about knee injuries or any other problems with your bones or joints. Getting you back to an active lifestyle is our goal.
If you have any questions or would like to schedule a consultation with Dr. Gilbert, contact our staff today by calling us at (919) 788-8797. You can request an appointment with Dr. Gilbert using our appointment request form, or you can self-schedule your appointment here.
We look forward to helping you find relief from your knee pain!