Chances are that you’ve heard about a professional athlete suffering a meniscus tear. Such injuries aren’t limited to professional athletes; in fact, they are one of the most common cartilage-related issues to afflict the knees.
The Role of the Meniscus
While you probably don’t think about your meniscus all that often, this C-shaped piece of cartilage plays an essential role in the health of your knees. Specifically, the meniscus is tasked with acting as a cushioning barrier between the bones of the knee joints, while simultaneously shielding bones from damage.
It would be a mistake to think that meniscus tears occur primarily in young athletes who play contact sports. Approximately 4 in 10 seniors (adults aged 65 and up) have suffered this type of injury.
Those who tear their meniscus often feel a sort of popping sensation in the affected knee. This is accompanied by a significant amount of pain, especially when the damaged knee is rotated or moved in a twisting manner. A torn meniscus tends to make the knee difficult to straighten, and people with this injury often complain that their leg feels as if it’s locked firmly in place. Finally, two other telltale signs of a meniscus tear are swelling and stiffness.
The methods used to treat a meniscus tear often hinge on the tear’s size, location and location. A more conservative approach would likely involve simply resting the damaged knee. Swelling and stiffness can be addressed by applying ice to the knee; cold packs and frozen vegetables can serve as effective substitutes in this role. In addition, a doctor might recommend about using over-the-counter pain relievers to manage pain.
If these conservative options fail to provide adequate relief, physical therapy or surgery may be necessary. In an overwhelming majority of cases (85 to 90 percent), people who undergo meniscus surgery see a dramatic improvement in short-term knee health. It may take several weeks for a patient to fully rehab a surgically repaired meniscus; this rehabilitation process is typically followed by physical therapy.
Listed below are some precautions you can take to avoid meniscus injuries:
- Exercise your thigh muscles on a regular basis
- Purchase shoes that offer an appropriate amount of comfort and support
- Before engaging in serious physical activities, remember to warm up with light exercises
- Change the intensity of your personal workouts at a steady, gradual pace. Refrain from excessively taxing your knees.
- Do not physically overburden your body; an insufficient amount of time between workouts may prove excessively taxing to the body’s joints.