November 01, 2012

Meniscus tears

Avoiding knee pain

Meniscus tears

You probably know what it's like to open products with safety lids — press down, twist and turn. While that may work for opening lids, those same types of motions made in relationship to your knee joint can cause trouble.

Maneuvers that forcefully compress and twist or rotate the knee can potentially lead to a torn meniscus, which is cartilage in the knee joint. This cartilage acts like a cushion between the shinbone (tibia) and thighbone (femur).

Meniscal tears are among the most common knee injuries. How torn knee cartilage is treated varies considerably. For older adults, treatment decisions can be more complex if osteoarthritis also is present in the affected knee.

Inside matter

Within the normal knee joint are two C-shaped menisci. The job of each meniscus is to:

  • Help absorb and distribute weight and force that's placed on the knee
  • Provide stability to the knee when pivoting
  • Lubricate the knee joint

In addition, the menisci help protect other cartilage tissue that covers the ends of the joint's tibia and femur bones.

Damage to the menisci may be sudden and severe, as can happen to athletes in competitive contact sports, such as football. The classic dodge maneuver — where you abruptly stop running and change directions — is a common way menisci can tear. Other common moves, such as kneeling and squatting, also can cause damage.

On the flip side, tears may go unnoticed, developing over time from regular joint...