A meniscus is a C-shaped piece of cartilage that helps with joint stability and load distribution. The knees have two each: one on the inner side of the joint (medial) and one on the outer (lateral).
How Meniscus Injuries Happen
Due to the shape and positioning of the menisci, they are not suited to rotation movements. We often hear about footballers suffering from torn menisci; this is unsurprising as football requires the exact movements mensci dislike. Rotation that passes through the knee joint, especially if the foot is well planted and weight bearing, puts a strain on the meniscus. This movement might happen to the weight bearing leg while kicking a ball.
The same movement can happen in other sports. Running and turning sharply or unlatching awkwardly from cycling cleats can cause the same demand on the knee. But this injury is not limited just to sports- sometimes a simple trip or fall can cause a tear.
Symptoms of a Torn Meniscus
Symptoms can be variable, as the injury itself could have a few different factors. In some cases, the tear is a simple one that goes from the inside of the C- shape and out towards the edge of the knee. Other times, the tear is longitudinal- following the length of the C. In the latter case, one side of the torn cartilage may be mobile. In some movements, the mobile part might flap out like the handle of a bucket. During these times, we expect more pain. Other movements can put it back to the correct position. Symptoms often reduce at this point. If your knee pain is sporadic, or maybe feels like it “needs to click”, it might be this kind of injury.
The pain itself might come on immediately, or it might progress slowly. A deep ache is not an uncommon description for the symptoms felt.
The Unhappy Triad
The meniscus might only be part of the injury. The Unhappy Triad is a term to describe a more complex knee injury, involving:
the medial meniscus
the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL)
the lateral collateral ligament (LCL)
Your osteopath will test these ligaments as part of the routine knee exam and adjust the treatment plan accordingly. Unhappy Triad Injuries are more likely in sports when the knee is hit from the inside and bent sideways. There will be more instability with this than a simple meniscus tear.
Osteopathy for Meniscus Injuries
As with all cartilage problems, the prognosis is likely to be for a slow recovery. Cartilage is slow to heal as it has a poor blood supply, but improving the range of movement in the joint helps to flush nutrients in and take away waste. We also want to help you move in a way that does not further irritate the cartilage. If your injury is sports related, this might involve advice to modify your exercise techniques. In all cases, advice and exercises may complement the work done in clinic. Treatment aims to reduce tension in the muscles that can put pressure on the knee, and generally improve joint movement.