Meniscus injury


Meniscus injury
Injuries to the crescent-shaped cartilage pads between the two joints formed by the femur (the thigh bone) and the tibia (the shin bone). The meniscus acts as a smooth surface for the joint to move on. The two menisci are easily injured by the force of rotating the knee while bearing weight. A partial or total tear of a meniscus may occur when a person quickly twists or rotates the upper leg while the foot stays still (for example, when dribbling a basketball around an opponent or turning to hit a tennis ball). If the tear is tiny, the meniscus stays connected to the front and back of the knee; if the tear is large, the meniscus may be left hanging by a thread of cartilage. The seriousness of a tear depends on its location and extent. Generally, when people injure a meniscus, they feel some pain, particularly when the knee is straightened. The pain may be mild, and the person may continue activity. Severe pain may occur if a fragment of the meniscus catches between the femur and tibia. Swelling may occur soon after injury if blood vessels are disrupted, or swelling may occur several hours later if the joint fills with fluid produced by the joint lining (synovium) as a result of inflammation. If the synovium is injured, it may become inflamed and produce fluid to protect itself. This causes swelling of the knee. Sometimes, an injury that occurred in the past but was not treated becomes painful months or years later, particularly if the knee is injured a second time. After any injury the knee may click, lock, or feel weak. Symptoms of meniscal injury may disappear on their own but frequently, symptoms persist or return and require treatment. In addition to listening to the patient's description of the onset of pain and swelling, the physician may perform a physical examination and take x rays of the knee. The examination may include a test in which the doctor flexes (bends) the leg then rotates the leg outward and inward while extending it. Pain or an audible click suggests a meniscal tear. An MRI test may be recommended to confirm the diagnosis. Occasionally, the doctor may use arthroscopy to help diagnose and treat a meniscal tear. If the tear is minor and the pain and other symptoms go away, the doctor may recommend a muscle-strengthening program. Exercises for meniscal problems are best performed with initial guidance from a doctor and physical therapist or exercise therapist. The therapist will make sure that the patient does the exercises properly and without risk of new or repeat injury. The following exercises after injury to the meniscus are designed to build up the quadriceps and hamstring muscles and increase flexibility and strength: {{}}Warming up the joint by riding a stationary bicycle, then straightening and raising the leg (but avoiding straightening the leg too much). Extending the leg while sitting (a weight may be worn on the ankle for this exercise). Raising the leg while lying on the stomach. Exercising in a pool, including walking as fast as possible in chest-deep water, performing small flutter kicks while holding onto the side of the pool, and raising each leg to 90 degrees in chest-deep water while pressing the back against the side of the pool.

Medical dictionary. 2011.

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