Your meniscus in your knee is comprised of two separate sections, medial and lateral. Both portions sit between the smooth cartilage called articular cartilage that lines both your femur (thigh bone) and tibia (shin bone). The meniscus itself is made up of thick dense cartilage that is called fibrocartilage.
Although the meniscus assists in a variety of functions at the knee, it is mainly responsible for two important roles:
Tears of the meniscus usually occur either due to a trauma or degeneration (usually seen in older adults).
The most common symptoms include:
If you suspect that you may have a meniscus tear, it is important for you to consult with your physician. A careful history and physical examination will be able to differentiate a meniscus tear from other knee related injuries. Other imaging studies (x-ray, MRI) can be recommended by your physician to help determine the location and severity of the tear. Not all meniscus tears require surgery! Surgical intervention is determined by a variety of factors which you should discuss with your physician.
Most commonly your surgeon will perform what's called a partial menisectomy, which involves removing a small portion of the meniscus that is torn. This procedure is usually done arthroscopically, which involves inserting a small camera inside the knee joint to visualize the tear. After surgery your doctor will determine the proper course of rehabilitation, which usually involves initiating physical therapy 1-2 weeks after surgery. Proper care must be taken to ensure that the meniscus can heal properly, which includes avoiding activities that produce higher forces at the knee (squats, jumping, jogging) for several months.
In some cases your doctor may determine that surgery is not required for a tear to the meniscus. Conservative treatment generally includes rest, ice, compression, elevation (R.I.C.E.) and a proper physical therapy program. It is important to let your symptoms completely resolve and be given permission by your physician before resuming full activity.