A meniscus tear is a painful knee joint condition, most often caused by sports that put a lot of strain on the knees. These include soccer and skiing. In the course of a meniscus tear, there is permanent damage to the cartilage disc in the knee joint ( meniscus ). Furthermore, a meniscus tear but also general joint wear and tear can occur with age.
What is a meniscus tear?
The human knee joint has two menisci that serve to cushion pressure and transmit force between the two bones of the leg. See AbbreviationFinder for abbreviations related to Meniscus Tear.
When one or both menisci tear, this is called a meniscus tear in medicine. It is characterized by pain in the knee, which occurs to a greater or lesser extent depending on the tear, and the knee can no longer be stretched. The diagnosis must be made clinically, using methods such as magnetic resonance imaging and arthroscopy.
In most cases, a meniscus tear is related to wear and tear of the menisci. The inner meniscus tears much more frequently than the outer one. The menisci are a layer of cartilage between the two bones of the knee joint. They also wear out over the course of life – this is part of osteoarthritis and is known as meniscopathy.
It can happen that older people tear their meniscus due to excessive stress on the material. This can be particularly the case in sports when no protective devices such as spring-loaded shoes are worn. In diseases such as arthrosis, however, even minor stresses in everyday life can be dangerous.
Cracks are also possible at a younger age. This is especially true when the knee joint has to withstand exceptionally high loads. Various types of sport involve a high level of risk – in the event of an injury or accident, even people with healthy joints can injure the menisci.
Symptoms, Ailments & Signs
A meniscus tear is usually a very painful matter, so that those affected are significantly disturbed in their own movement. Typical signs of a meniscus tear are severe pain in the knee. The entire joint can no longer be moved properly with an existing meniscus tear, so that even the smallest movements cause severe pain.
In the case of an acute or sudden meniscus tear, the stabbing pain occurs immediately after the respective load. Strong and clearly visible swellings ] are also possible, which occur directly at the knee joint. With degenerative changes, the pain gets progressively worse over a longer period of time until the meniscus tears. If the muscle is torn, the pain is not that bad.
Pain only occurs when pressure is applied. The course of movement is very rarely restricted when the meniscus is torn. Pain only occurs with explicit movements and positions of the joint, so that a tear is often not recognized as such. Anyone who completely dispenses with medical and drug support must expect a significant worsening of the symptoms that occur. Permanent damage is also possible if you don’t see a doctor in time.
Course of the disease
In general, there are no major complications and serious discomfort from a meniscus tear. Only the known dangers and risks associated with an operation on the meniscus can occur. Nerve injuries or cartilage and ligament damage only rarely occur in the course of the disease. Early detection of joint stiffness requires an early visit to the doctor. However, arthrosis can occur.
Those affected primarily suffer from relatively severe pain as a result of the meniscus tear. The pain itself is burning and stabbing and can also spread to the surrounding regions of the body and lead to pain or swelling there as well. The affected regions are also swollen and there is swelling and pain in the joints themselves.
It is not uncommon for the joints to become inflamed, leading to restricted movement. As a rule, the meniscus tear significantly reduces the quality of life and there are various restrictions in the patient’s everyday life. In most cases, complications arise when the person concerned continues to put strain on their body even after the meniscus tear.
This can lead to irreversible consequential damage. However, even after successful treatment, the body’s resilience is not fully restored. However, the patient’s life expectancy is not reduced by this disease. Even with the treatment of the tear, there are no further complications. With the help of surgical interventions, the symptoms can be limited relatively well. In some cases, the insertion of implants is necessary.
When should you go to the doctor?
A meniscus tear is a serious injury that usually should always be treated by an appropriate doctor. Such an injury is usually caused by an unfamiliar or heavy load. Affected people immediately complain about a stabbing and long-lasting pain that does not subside even when they are at rest. As a result, normal movement is no longer possible, making a visit to the doctor essential. Anyone who decides to seek medical treatment can count on a complete and rapid recovery. However, if a visit to the doctor is delayed, considerable complications can be expected.
In many cases, surgery is even possible to ensure a full recovery. Otherwise, this injury cannot heal properly, which can even lead to permanent consequential damage. In addition, an untreated meniscus tear can even lead to inflammation or the formation of an abscess. Pus develops, which in particularly bad cases can even lead to blood poisoning. The following therefore applies: A meniscus tear should always be treated medically and with medication. Only then can healing be possible without complications.
Treatment & Therapy
The treatment of a meniscus tear consists first of all in performing a knee endoscopy to define the exact nature of the tear. The knee joint is flushed, then a lens is inserted through which the meniscus tear can be examined. This is important in order to then select the right surgical procedure, since MRI images, for example, do not provide any precise information about the clinical picture.
Then three options are available. The simplest solution is the meniscus suture. The meniscus is brought back to the right place with suture material or special meniscus arrows, and the material then dissolves by itself. This method makes it most likely that a sporting activity can be fully resumed.
The second option is treated as a partial resection. Part of the meniscus is removed. The advantage of this is that the healing process is faster. However, heavy loads are then critical for the joint. In severe cases, a donor meniscus or an implant is transplanted. Athletes can also train with it again, but they run a higher risk of osteoarthritis.
Outlook & Forecast
If certain guidelines are observed, the meniscus tear has a favorable prognosis. Normally, you will be free of symptoms within a few months. Nevertheless, it can happen that usual sporting activities or physical stress can only be resumed after several years. Without medical care, there is severe pain and significant impairment of locomotion. Gait uncertainties and a decrease in physical performance occur. Lifelong disruption occurs if treatment is not initiated.
In addition to medical care, subsequent physiotherapeutic treatment supports a good prognosis. The patient learns here how he can gradually bring his body back to its previous performance. Motion sequences are trained and specific exercises to strengthen the knee joint are learned. For optimal further development, the patient should also integrate the training outside of the sessions in everyday life. This improves the general state of health and shortens the healing path.
Despite everything, it must be taken into account that further heavy physical exertion increases the risk of secondary diseases. Many of those affected subsequently suffer from arthrosis in the course of their lives. This circumstance must be taken into account when making the prognosis, as arthrosis is a chronic disease that leads to a significant loss of mobility.
In order to prevent a meniscus tear at an early stage, it is first and foremost important to protect the knee joint from arthrosis. In this way, wear and tear becomes an issue only late in life or not at all and the menisci remain resilient for a long time.
For example, good shoes are important for sports or activities that put a lot of strain on the joint. Dangerous sports with an extreme risk of injury (e.g. football) for the knee should ideally not be practiced at all – if you do, the right protection is important. If greater wear is known, heavier, risky loads should be avoided altogether if possible.
The healing process of a meniscus tear is long and sometimes complex, so follow-up care focuses on managing the injury positively. The physical limitation can be very difficult for those affected, so it is important to accept the situation and adopt a positive attitude. This sometimes stimulates the recovery process and maintains the quality of life despite the difficult circumstances.
The meniscus tear reduces the quality of life considerably and there can be many limitations in everyday life, which must be taken into account by those affected. Further complaints usually occur when the body continues to be under heavy strain despite the meniscus tear, so physical activities should only be undertaken very cautiously and in consultation with the doctor treating you.
You can do that yourself
In everyday life, movements should be controlled and well reflected upon throughout life. Correct movements can hold back the wear and tear of the joints for as long as possible. If cartilage and joints are already damaged, there is a possibility that a movement that is not performed optimally can lead to a meniscus tear. Wearing healthy shoes is recommended in all age groups in order not to cause false strain or excessive strain. In order to minimize unnecessary wear and tear on the bones, care should be taken to ensure that the weight is within the normal range. Obesity increases the probability of joint damage and thus the functional activity of the menisci immensely.
Since the meniscus tear does not heal on its own without medical intervention, the person affected should consult a doctor as soon as possible in the event of symptoms. Early diagnosis reduces the size of the tear and has implications for continued health. The patient’s cooperation is helpful during the healing process. The doctor’s advice must be followed in order not to cause any permanent problems. In the first few days after the operation, rest should be maintained and the affected knee should be relieved almost completely. The healing process is then continued through physiotherapy exercisesaccompanied, which the person concerned can independently accompany in everyday life. Sporting activities should only take place after the healing process is complete in order not to suffer a relapse.