The meniscus of the knee consist of a set of two c-shaped disk-like cartilage structures in the knee located between the upper femur and lower tibia. These menisci help absorb shock and guide motion of the knee. The menisci are very strong, but can cause significant knee problems when injured.
The meniscus can be injured with strong twisting motions of the knees. This is particularly the case when standing with the knee straight, where rotational motion is especially limited. An example would be pivoting strongly on the knee while playing sports.
The meniscus can be injured in auto collisions as well. Often this occurs if the knees hit the dash in front, strongly applying pressure to the knee joint.
The menisci are fibrocartilage structures. Like other cartilage structures, the menisci have a poor blood supply overall and receive much of their nutrition by diffusion. This makes healing from injuries difficult, as oxygen and nutrients are poorly delivered.
The outer portion of the meniscus does have a blood supply and may be able to heal after an injury. The inner 2/3 of the meniscus does not have a blood supply and is largely unable to heal on its own. These inner meniscus tears are therefore more likely to require surgery compared to tears that occur in the outer portion of a meniscus.
Sometimes a meniscus tear may result in a portion of the meniscus moving into a position that limits motion of the knee. The meniscus can then become stuck, causing the knee to lock and restricting movement. Often the knee locks temporarily, and can be freed with certain movements, but sometimes the knee can become locked in a fixed range by the meniscus, requiring surgical treatment.
Light movement and exercise help move fluid through the joint and provide nutrition to the cartilage of the meniscus. Exercises may include straight leg raises, both from the front in flexion, and the back in extension.
Physical examination can help to identify a meniscus tear. Many of the physical examination tests place rotational force on the knee, which helps to isolate a meniscus tear. Often, imaging tests are needed to confirm whether a meniscus tear is present and the location. MRI and ultrasound imaging can show the presence of a meniscus tear.
Your Chiropractor will be able to diagnose a meniscus tear and provide treatment and exercise instruction to aid in your recovery. Contact your Chiropractor if you are experiencing knee pain after an accident or injury.