A torn meniscus is one of the most common sports-related injuries. A torn meniscus can be very painful and may take time to heal. If your meniscus tear doesn’t heal properly, it can make your knee less stable. This can increase the risk of other knee injuries — like an ACL tear or other torn ligament.
What Is A Meniscus Tear?
Your knees have two shock-absorbing cartilages—the medial meniscus and the lateral meniscus—that act as cushioning for the bones and joints. As you age, this cartilage wears thin and can tear as a result.
The meniscus tear is usually caused by a sudden twist of the knee while the foot stays planted on the ground. This type of injury usually occurs during sports activities. Cartilage degeneration from age or arthritis can cause a tear even without an injury to the knee.
If you tear your meniscus, you may feel pain and swelling in your knee. You also might have trouble extending your knee fully.
Signs and Symptoms
Here are some of the common symptoms associated with a torn meniscus:
- A popping sound or sensation when the injury occurs
- Swelling in the knee
- Stiffness in the knee
- Sharp pain, especially when trying to move the knee
- Inability to extend leg fully
Causes of Meniscus Tears
There are a few causes of a torn meniscus, but the common factor is a forceful twist of the knee joint. Some activities that may lead to these are:
Falling or other accidents: falling at a bad angle or getting caught in accidents can lead to damage to the knee that causes a torn meniscus. This could include car accidents, collisions during walks or runs, and other kinds of accidents.
Exercising with bad posture: doing strenuous activities with bad posture and too much weight on your knee can cause your meniscus to tear. Exercises like squats, lifting, and things that involve kneeling should be done with good posture.
Sports and activities: sports that involve sudden twisting movements, such as tennis, soccer, and basketball, can increase your risk of a meniscus tear. Playing contact sports also increases your risk of a meniscus tear. Getting hit or tackled can make you twist your knee, tearing the cartilage.
Degenerative conditions: health conditions that lead to degeneration of the body can lead to a torn meniscus. In these situations, there is little trauma and rather a gradual descent into incapability. These conditions can include things like arthritis and other age-related wear and tear.
How to Prevent a Torn Meniscus
One of the best ways to protect your meniscus is by bracing your knees, especially when engaging in sports or other activities. This is especially important if you know you have weak or unstable knees and you need support.
Another way to prevent a torn meniscus is to slowly build up exercise intensity and not jump into high-intensity exercises without warming up. Proper preparation, training, and stretching before exercising and other types of sports are essential.
Strength and flexibility training for your knees and legs also help to prevent a torn meniscus as your knees are better prepared for any activities you engage in.
How can Physical Therapy help with a Meniscus Tear?
One of the effects of a torn meniscus is limited motion and flexibility in the knee. Physical therapy can help immensely with this by exercising and training the knee slowly to build up strength and mobility with time.
Physical therapy can also help to reduce pain and swelling by compression, massaging, and stimulating the affected areas.
If you are dealing with a torn meniscus and need assistance or information, contact us today for all the help you need!