Meniscus tears are the fourth most common running injury (4), but unlike some of the overuse injuries we have covered, many meniscal injuries do not heal on their own. But don’t worry, some amazing advancements in the treatment of meniscus tears have occurred over the past few years, which we will share with you here!
The meniscus is a C-shaped rubbery tissue in the knee joint that sits along the top of the tibia (shin bone) and acts as an important shock absorber and stabilizer for the knee (3). The knee has two menisci, one in the medial compartment (inside) and one in the lateral compartment (outside) of the knee.
Symptoms of Meniscus Tears
People with meniscus tears commonly report pain, stiffness, swelling, instability, and the knee joint feeling locked when trying bend and straighten the knee. Meniscus tears can be diagnosed by a physician using physical examination and medical imaging (MRI, Xray).
Common Causes of Meniscus Tears
Meniscus tears are one of the most common knee injuries and frequently occur in conjunction with an acute injury (e.g. an ACL tear) (3). However, meniscus tears are also common in knees without a history of acute injury due to normal aging and wear of the tissue over time. These are called degenerative meniscus tears and are more common in older individuals (>40 years) (3). Running puts repetitive stress on the meniscus, and not surprisingly, many runners experience meniscus tears (4).
Treatment of Meniscus Tears
Meniscal injuries are concerning because a damaged meniscus loses some of its ability to absorb shock and distribute forces across the knee, which can cause increased stress on the articular cartilage and development of painful osteoarthritis (1-3). In the past the damaged meniscus was often removed (meniscectomy), but emphasis is now placed on preserving as much of the meniscus as possible (3).
Some tears can be managed without surgery and symptoms improve with activity modification, rehabilitation, and medication. If nonsurgical treatment is ineffective at relieving symptoms then surgery may be indicated to repair the damaged meniscus and remove any unstable fragments (3). Surgeons and medical device companies have developed minimally invasive surgical devices which allow these surgeries to be performed through small incisions with a camera (arthroscope) and specialized tools, expediting recovery!
Now get out there and live a Strong Healthy and Happy life!
- Baumgarten, B., 2007. To run or not to run: a post-meniscectomy qualitative risk analysis model for osteoarthritis when considering a return to recreational running. Journal of Manual & Manipulative Therapy, 15(1), pp.1E-15E.
- Christoforakis, J., Pradhan, R., Sanchez-Ballester, J., Hunt, N. and Strachan, R.K., 2005. Is there an association between articular cartilage changes and degenerative meniscus tears?. Arthroscopy: The Journal of Arthroscopic & Related Surgery, 21(11), pp.1366-1369.
- Greis, P.E., Bardana, D.D., Holmstrom, M.C. and Burks, R.T., 2002. Meniscal injury: I. Basic science and evaluation. Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, 10(3), pp.168-176.
- Taunton, J.E., Ryan, M.B., Clement, D.B., McKenzie, D.C., Lloyd-Smith, D.R. and Zumbo, B.D., 2002. A retrospective case-control analysis of 2002 running injuries. British journal of sports medicine, 36(2), pp.95-101.