The knee joint is made up of several components that enable flexion and extension of the joint as well as limited internal and external rotation. This structural system facilitates movements such as squatting, walking, getting up and much more that is important throughout daily activities.
Although knee pain can be due to various causes, a torn meniscus is a common cause. The menisci are C shaped rings made up of cartilage that lie between the shin and thigh bone. They cushion these two bones and evenly distribute pressure during movement of the knee joint. A torn meniscus results from forcefully twisting or sudden stops and turns that rotate the knee abruptly. This type of injury often occurs in athletes who play contact sports such as football or those involving knee bending such as basketball, tennis or soccer. However, in older adults, wear and tear of the knee joint can cause a torn meniscus without instances of trauma.
Some of the common symptoms indicating a torn meniscus include swelling or stiffness of the upper part of the knee, pain on the inner half of the knee worsened by twisting or rotating the knee and a popping sensation. Instability of the knee and limited motion such as deep knee bending, squatting or inability to fully straighten the knee are also signs of injury. These symptoms can be managed conservatively by rest, ice, medication or home physical therapy. They might also require surgical intervention in advanced cases. The complications of a meniscal tear include persistent knee pain, permanent instability of the knee joint and osteoarthritis.
Experiencing knee pain does not indicate a torn meniscus. However, a persistence of pain or swelling or an inability to move the knee normally for more than a week should prompt a visit to the doctor. An orthopedic surgeon would be best to evaluate the symptoms and make the correct diagnosis.