The knee joint has a lateral and medial meniscus, two half-moon-shaped discs of fibrous cartilage located between the thigh bone and shin. The menisci ensure that these two bones with differently shaped surfaces work smoothly together. They enlarge the knee joint surface, absorb weight-loading and thereby ensure an even distribution on the joint. Meniscus injuries endanger the stabilising, shock absorbing and load distributing effect of the menisci.
Meniscus injuries are frequently caused by sports, accidents or uncontrolled movements. These are usually abrupt movements such as rapid rotation or a sudden stop. The knee is adversely rotated as a result, leading to pinching and a rupture of the meniscus material. Meniscus ruptures occur in various forms with different degrees of severity.
Another cause which should not be disregarded, especially in older people, is the degenerative change of the menisci. Renewal of the meniscus material is minor so that a reduction occurs with increasing age. The menisci become brittle and small cracks form. Then the meniscus may tear even during everyday knee movements. However, degenerative changes to the meniscus material are also possible at a younger age if too much strain is placed on the joint. This is caused for example by excess weight, malposition of the leg axes or severe strain due to one-sided competitive sports.
A meniscus injury is diagnosed by a doctor based on an intensive anamnesis, thorough examination and imaging methods. An arthroscopy is also performed in many cases.
The symptoms of meniscus injuries include severe pain and limited mobility in the affected knee joint. Additional indications of meniscus damage are stabbing pain during movements, severe swelling of the entire knee joint, limited functioning, excess heat and reddening in the affected area.
Therapy usually involves minimally invasive intervention in the form of an arthroscopy. Loose cartilage material is removed with this procedure and torn sections of the meniscus are sutured. In many cases, the doctor recommends partial weight bearing with limited mobility so the affected area has time to heal. Braces are used regularly to implement this therapy.
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