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Knee Meniscus Injuries, Treatment and Rehab

In a younger population meniscal damage is usually torn traumatically by twisting on a slightly flexed knee. Meniscal irritation may occur as the result of a more minor incident and have milder symptoms. In older adults the tear may be the result of natural age related degeneration of the meniscus or may be the result of an arthritic joint surface rubbing on and damaging the softer meniscus.

Blood supply to the meniscus and therefore its ability to heal varies depending on the region. The red zone on the outside of the meniscus has a blood supply from the joint capsule and may heal without surgery. The white zone does not usually heal due to a lack of blood supply.

Symptoms of Meniscal Injuries

The symptoms will vary depending on the severity of the injury. Symptoms may include;

  • Pain along knee joint

  • Pain when squatting

  • Clicking or popping sounds

  • RICE: rest, ice, compression, elevation

  • No HARM: no heat, no alcohol, no running (or other exercise), and no massage

  • Anti-inflammatory or pain relief medication if needed


Physiotherapy Treatment for Meniscal Injuries

Small meniscus tears or tears in the red zone respond well to physiotherapy treatment.

There is good evidence now in the research to indicate that an active based physiotherapy program combined with weight loss is the most effective strategy to recover from a mensical injury.

Physiotherapy will aim to;

  • Reduce pain and inflammation

  • Normalise joint range of motion

  • Normalise muscle length

  • Strengthen the muscles surrounding your knee. This is particularly important as a role of your meniscus is shock absorption, by strengthening the surrounding muscles the muscles absorb some of the shock and the load through your joint and meniscus decreases

  • Improve patellofemoral (kneecap) alignment

  • Improve balance and proprioception

  • Functional training and return to sport

  • Minimise the chance of re-injury


Surgery for Meniscal Injuries

Most surgeons will recommend an initial period of conservative physiotherapy management. Depending on the severity of the injury and your response to conservative therapy surgery may be considered. Surgery is performed arthroscopically and either removes or repairs the torn fragment of the meniscus. Post-operative physiotherapy will be required.