Meniscal Tear

Meniscal tears are an injury affecting the cartilage between the knee joint, often resulting from trauma or an accumulation of age-related changes. Everyone’s knee has an inside (medial) and outside (lateral) mensicus, and you can picture a mensicus to look like a moon shape or a kidney bean made up of an anterior horn, posterior horn and body. This cartilage structure aims to provide the important function of locking your knee joint when your knee is straight (or extended), but it also forms as a soft, yet incredibly strong, buffer between your thigh bone (femur) and your shin bone (tibia). Proper management is essential to relieve symptoms, restore function, and prevent long-term complications, and an OHL Physiotherapist can help you or your loved one with all these essential steps. Treatment options for meniscal tears include both conservative and surgical approaches, depending on the severity and type of tear.

The choice between conservative and surgical management depends on factors such as the type and location of the tear, the patient's age, activity level, and overall health. A thorough evaluation by a Physiotherapist, occasionally involving imaging studies like MRI, guides the decision-making process. In some cases, a combination of approaches may be recommended to achieve the best outcome.

A thorough assessment is also required to confirm a meniscal tear is correct diagnosis of your knee pain, and/or confirm it is the only injury to your knee currently. A medial meniscal tear is painful on the inside of your knee joint, commonly across the joint line, and a lateral meniscal tear tends to be painful on the outside of your knee, rightfully. The pain tends to be worse on full knee straightening or deep knee bending, but again it depends on whether the injury is in the anterior or posterior horn, or in the body of the meniscus itself. 

Conservative management for recent tears typically involves rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE) to reduce swelling and pain. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may be prescribed to alleviate pain and inflammation. Physiotherapy plays a crucial role in strengthening the surrounding muscles, improving joint stability, and guiding a sensible return to enjoyed activities and sports, and they jump into this stage of rehabilitation once you’ve successfully worked together to reduce the pain. Additionally, the use of knee brace or crutches may provide support and restrict movement to facilitate healing in a severely painful tear in the early stages.

When conservative measures are insufficient or in cases of more severe tears that lock knee movement, surgical intervention may be recommended. Arthroscopic surgery is a common approach, involving minimally invasive techniques to repair or remove the damaged meniscus. For longer standing meniscus injuries that don’t restrict movement, surgical intervention has questionable value. Your trusty OHL Physiotherapist can link you with a renown knee surgeon, if you don't know one, and we’ll provide the surgeon will a letter regarding your story, to date, to help in the ease of making decisions with busy surgeons.

Rehabilitation post-surgery is essential to ensure optimal recovery. You’ll start at phase one with regaining strength, flexibility, and functionality, and move through our four-phase rehabilitation journey. Patients are usually advised to avoid activities that place excessive stress on the knee during the initial phases of recovery and follow a guide rehabilitation plan to build back to full function.

Overall, prompt and appropriate management of meniscal tears is crucial to reduce pain, improve knee function, and prevent long-term complications, from ongoing stress and compensatory movement patterns. Individualized treatment plans tailored to each patient's unique circumstances yield the most favourable results in meniscal tear management in which your Physiotherapist plays a vital role.

If you have just suffered a meniscal tear or sitting at home recovering from a meniscus repair or debridement, please reach out to an experienced OHL Physiotherapist to take the big first step in getting back to doing all the things you love. You can book an appointment by calling 9431 5955 or you can book online via the Client Portal on our website.