Signs Your Meniscus May Be in Trouble

The knee is a large, complex joint that holds the thigh bone and shin bone together. It supports the bulk of your body weight and relies on ligaments and muscles for stability. 

The characteristics of the knee make it vulnerable to injury and damage. In fact, the knee is one of the most commonly damaged joints, either through wear-and-tear or direct injury.

Components of the knee, including the meniscus, are prone to problems, and it’s not always easy to tell there’s a problem. If you’re having symptoms, it’s best to visit an orthopedic physician for an evaluation.

Orthopedic surgeon Joel Hurt specializes in treating knee and shoulder problems, and provides care to the Austin, Marble Falls, and Bastrop, Texas community. In this blog post, we discuss the meniscus and warning signs that you may need treatment.

Anatomy of the knee

The knee is a hinge joint that connects the shin (tibia) to the thigh bone (femur) with the kneecap (patella) situated in the middle. The kneecap protects the front of the knee joint. The menisci are two rubbery discs of cartilage that cushion the knee joint. Without this cushion, the thigh bones and shinbone would rub against each other.

Cruciate ligaments stabilize the knee, connect the tibia and femur, and prevent dangerous movement by limiting knee rotation.

What else does the meniscus do?

The menisci are your knee’s shock absorbers. Each of your knees has one lateral meniscus and one medial meniscus. When you run and jump, your menisci absorb much of the shock, helping to keep the knee lubricated and nourished, and preventing excess wear-and-tear inside the knee joint.

A torn meniscus is the most common reason for knee surgery. Advanced knee arthritis is another common reason for knee surgery.

Warning signs of a meniscus problem

Participating in certain sports that require knee rotation or sudden stops and pivots, such as football, puts you at an increased risk for a meniscus strain or tear. Degenerative joint conditions of the knee are also a risk factor. Even squatting and lifting something heavy can result in a meniscus tear.

Here are some telltale signs of a meniscus problem:

If you injure your knee, you should always have it checked by an orthopedic professional.

Diagnosing meniscus problems

Dr. Hurt has extensive experience diagnosing and treating knee problems, including meniscus tears, and knows what to look for. He will perform a comprehensive evaluation, inspecting your knees and comparing one to the other. The results of range-of-motion tests help guide a diagnosis. Swelling, tenderness, or fluid inside the knee joint provide further clues.

Along with physical examination, Dr. Hurt may order appropriate imaging tests such as an X-ray, MRI, or CT scan. If the results of your evaluation suggest you have a meniscus problem, Dr. Hurt will discuss treatment options.

Treating meniscus problems

There are several ways to treat knee problems depending on the nature of your meniscus issues. Physical therapy and other non-surgical approaches may be enough for minor meniscus strains. Surgery is used to repair meniscus tears.

Arthroscopy

Dr. Hurt specializes in minimally invasive surgery to treat knee problems. To perform arthroscopy, Dr. Hurt makes very small incisions and uses a special instrument with a camera to visualize the knee, remove damaged tissue, and repair the knee to restore function and relieve pain.  

If the tear involves a part of the meniscus with limited blood flow, Dr. Hurt may trim away damaged tissue along the edges of the tear so that the joint can move smoothly. This is called a partial meniscectomy.

Following arthroscopy, you will begin physical therapy to strengthen the knee, restore range of motion, and reduce pain and inflammation.

To have your knee evaluated, contact our office to schedule a visit or make your appointment request online today. 

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