The meniscus is a piece of cartilage in the knee. It looks like a contact lens holder, a pair of cups facing up at the top of the lower leg, where the bony prominences of the upper leg bone (femur) slide back and forth. The meniscus can be injured when the knee is twisted or bent, in particular when the knee is flexed. Injuries to the meniscus are common in people who play sports such as soccer, basketball and football, but they can occur in anyone who twists their knee.
When the meniscus is injured, there is often swelling, pain, and decreased range of motion.
Treatment of the injured meniscus is best with the following:
Avoid positions and activities that irritate the knee, such as kneeling, squatting, twisting, or taking steps.
Elevation of the leg
Ice packs to the knee to reduce swelling and soreness
Using crutches if the pain is severe
Using a brace if the knee is unstable
As the pain improves, straight leg raising without resistance is recommended, as well as working with a physical therapist.
MRI studies and possibly a referral to orthopedic surgery are recommended when the above treatments are not helpful, or when the range of motion of the knee does not recover.
Sometimes a meniscus injury occurs with minimal trauma. This tends to happen in people who are older. Normally physical therapy is sufficient for improving this condition, and surgery is not needed.