The knees are a very vulnerable part of our body. Not only athletes are prone to knee injuries. Many amateur athletes suffer damage to their knee during their favorite recreational activity, such as playing soccer with friends, participating in a company sporting event – or some people even suffer a knee injury from a quick unexpected movement during daily activity. How you know that your meniscus is hurt? Usually you will feel a pop or sudden pain the moment your meniscus is torn.
The reason for the vulnerability of the knee lies in its complex anatomic structure. As a hinge joint, the knee bends in only one plane of motion. It is relatively rigid, which increases the susceptibility to injury.
Four major ligaments work to keep each one of your knees stable. Yet the knees are still the most vulnerable joints in your body. Even without injury, that vulnerability might gradually show up as pain that gets worse over time. Osteoarthritis, commonly known as wear-and-tear arthritis, is such a condition in which the natural cushioning between joints - cartilage - wears away. This cartilage also includes your meniscus. Each of your knees has two such meniscus wedges. And they are especially prone to injury.
Meniscus tears are common in athletes
Each of your knees has two C-shaped menisci that act like a cushion between your shinbone and your thighbone. These menisci are particularly susceptible to damage. Once impaired, the bones of the joints rub more closely against one another with less of the shock-absorbing benefits of the meniscus.
Meniscus tears are common in athletes, especially in those who play sports that require a lot of squatting, twisting and changing positions. Also during contact sports, such as football or rugby: the force and degree of twisting the knee can tear some of the wedge-shaped meniscus that provides the cushioning in the knee.
Can a meniscus tear heal on its own?
For some athletes, especially in the field of endurance sports, a little pain is a badge of honor. Some think that a meniscus tear will heal over time on its own. Several types of meniscus tears, however, won’t heal without treatment.
A tear on the outer one-third of the meniscus is considered to be a less severe injury. It may heal on its own if the position is stable and it’s a small tear because this area has rich blood supply and blood cells can regenerate meniscus tissue.
Still, even patients with less severe tears may have difficulty bending and straightening the leg, with a tendency for the knee to get "stuck" or locked. Walking might become more and more difficult and painful, let alone running. Untreated meniscus damage can also result in long-term knee problems such as arthritis.
In more severe cases, when the tear is in the inner two-thirds of the wedge, which lack blood flow, the tear cannot be repaired and needs to be trimmed by surgery or removed altogether.
How does Bumrungrad’s Sports Medicine & Joint Center treat meniscus injuries?
Since the knee is such a delicate part of the body, knee injuries can be manifold. First and foremost, the correct diagnosis is required. Bumrungrad’s specialists evaluate whether surgery is the best option or whether noninvasive treatment is more appropriate.
Non- surgical treatment for tears that can heal on their own may include physical therapy, RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation), orthobiologics and anti-inflammatory medications. Any impact activities, such as running and jumping, should be avoided.
Yet, these conservative treatments aren't always enough. Surgery may be necessary if a tear is large, unstable or causing locking symptoms since the frayed edge of the damaged meniscus can get caught in the joints, causing pain and swelling.
Patients at Bumrungrad’s Sports Medicine & Joint Center who need to undergo a meniscus operation can rely on minimally invasive arthroscopic surgery, performed by a highly experienced surgical team.
During surgery, a small camera is inserted into a tiny incision in the knee to guide the surgeon in repairing or removing the tear, using small instruments inserted into another tiny incision. This is the gold standard of treatment for meniscus surgery.
Bumrungrad’s center’s sports medicine specialist teams are known by athletes and recreational athletes alike for their expertise in this type of surgery. The procedure usually lasts for approximately one hour. Following surgery, patients can often go home on the same day, or stay for one night.
The Sport Medicine & Joint Center’s multidisciplinary approach
Depending on the degree of the damage, full knee functionality can be restored. The center has reinvented the concept of holistic care to offer the whole spectrum of meniscus treatments, ranging from repair to orthobiologics to physical exercise therapy. The Sports Medicine & Joint Center’s complete multidisciplinary treatment approach should thereby carefully be followed for optimal results. After surgery, the patient will need to participate in physical therapy exercise programs to strengthen the knee and regain the optimally possible range of motion, and also prevent re-injury. Care and supervision will be provided by a team of experienced orthopedics sports surgeons, rehabilitation physicians, physical therapists trained in sports medicine, and sports science trainers.
The key is the correct diagnosis
The importance of the correct diagnosis and adequate treatment cannot be overstated when it comes to a meniscus injury. In some cases, unnecessary operations can be avoided altogether. And if not done correctly, inferior surgery can increase damage to the cartilage, prolong knee trauma and require a long postoperative recovery without ever regaining satisfactory knee motion.
Meniscus tears should not be ignored, as they can make even one of the most basic things in life difficult in the long run: the ability to walk. Meniscus damage can be effectively treated. Pain in the knee must no longer be a reason to force you to give up your favorite sport or activity.
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