What is the Knee Meniscus and What Does it Do?

What is the Knee Meniscus and What Does it Do?

The menisci of the knee joint are crescent-shaped wedges of cartilage that play a critical role in stabilizing and lubricating the knee joint. The menisci are a crucial part of the knee joint’s mechanics, distributing the load across the knee joint and acting as shock absorbers. 

Damage to the meniscus is common in athletes who participate in certain spots. This cartilage is also vulnerable to age-related wear and tear and is a common site of arthritis in older adults. 

Board-certified sports medicine and orthopedic surgeon Michael Klassen, MD, specializes in minimally invasive arthroscopic surgical techniques, including meniscal repair, which uses smaller incisions than conventional open surgery. Keep reading to learn about this crucial knee component. 

What is the meniscus?

A meniscus's job is to act as a shock absorber within the knee. There are two menisci in your body. On the inside of your knee, you have a medial meniscus, and on the outside, you have a lateral meniscus.

During regular activity, your knees are subjected to a great deal of stress. Each step you take puts pressure on your knee equal to four times your body weight. When you exercise or run, the load on your knees increases. 

When your meniscus is working properly, the force of each stride is uniformly distributed over the end of the thigh bone to the shin bone. 

How does the meniscus function?

When you take a step down, a healthy meniscus absorbs the shock and distends or pushes outwards. This helps to relieve a lot of the force applied to the knee. 

If the meniscus is damaged, the force across your knee is concentrated in a smaller area. This causes uneven load distribution and can result in the loss of articular cartilage, which increases the risk of developing arthritis in the future. 

What is a meniscus tear?

The knee is normally a sturdy and strong joint. However, it isn't always the most adaptable for rotating in certain directions. The force exerted when twisting your knee during various activities, especially contact sports, can tear portions of the meniscus. 

Athletes who participate in activities that entail a lot of squatting, twisting, quick pivoting, and changing postures, and at an increased risk of meniscus tear. 

If you tear your meniscus, you may experience the following symptoms:

If left untreated, part of the meniscus may break free and slip into the joint. 

How are meniscus tears treated?

The first step in treating a torn meniscus is to get the injury evaluated by an orthopedic specialist. During the exam, Dr. Klassen will feel for discomfort in your knee joint and move your leg to determine the range of motion in your knee. Imaging tests like an MRI or an X-ray are used to view the location and severity of the tear.

The recommended treatment depends on the location, severity, kind of tear, your age, and baseline health and fitness.

Tears that can heal on their own may benefit from non-surgical treatment. Surgery is usually the best course of action for more severe tears. The purpose of surgery is to repair or remove the torn part of the meniscus.

After surgery, physical therapy may be required to strengthen your knee, recover your range of motion, and return to your normal activities.

A meniscus tear, if left untreated, can impede your daily activities and your ability to exercise and participate in sports and can lead to long-term knee problems. Don’t put off getting your knee evaluated; schedule a visit with Dr. Klassen by calling or booking online today. We can help you get back to activities you enjoy.

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