The meniscus is cartilage that that separates the femur (thigh bone) from the tibia (shin bone). Each knee joint has a medial meniscus and a lateral meniscus. The role of the meniscus is to act as a shock absorber during weight bearing activities such as walking, running and jumping. The knee experiences a lot of force during these activities, and the meniscus helps to absorb and disperse these forces, to help prevent injury or damage to the surfaces of the femur and tibia.
In younger individuals, a meniscus tear usually occurs from a twisting movement on a slightly bent knee, and are often sport-related. In older individuals, a meniscus tear usually results from age-related degeneration of the meniscus and arthritis development in the knee joint.
Physiotherapy can be effective for management of minor meniscus tears, however more severe tears may require surgical intervention. Even if surgery is required, physiotherapy prior to surgery will help with post-surgical recovery. A Physiotherapist will take a detailed history and complete a comprehensive assessment, to determine the severity of your meniscus tear. If you haven’t already had a scan, your physiotherapist may refer you to your physician to get a scan of your knee, typically an x-ray and/or MRI, to help determine the severity of your injury. With the information gathered from the assessment, the physiotherapist will develop an individualized treatment plan to treat your meniscus tear. Based on your assessment and your symptoms, your individualized treatment plan may include:
- Manual therapy techniques such as soft tissue release, mobilization or manipulation
- An individualized exercise program including range of motion exercises, muscle strengthening and stretching. As you improve, the physiotherapist will progress your exercises to make them more functional to help you reach your goals.
- Education on activity modification, and returning to your activities
- A knee brace may be recommended
- Modalities such as acupuncture, TENS, ultrasound, heat or ice