Medial meniscus inflame
by Nathan Wei, MD, FACP, FACR
Nathan Wei is a nationally known board-certified rheumatologist and author of the Second Opinion Arthritis Treatment Kit. It's available exclusively at this website... not available in stores.
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When I first saw these keywords, I couldn’t figure out what they meant.
However, I finally realized that this was referring to inflammation of the medial meniscus... or quite possibly referring to problems that could cause pain in the region of the medial meniscus.
The meniscus, which is a piece of fibrocartilage, acts as a cushion between the femur and the tibia to diffuse the weight bearing forces transferred from the upper leg to the lower leg. The ability of the meniscus to spread out the force on the joint surfaces as one walks is important because it protects the hyaline articular cartilage covering the femur and the tibia from excessive wearing. Without the meniscus, the concentration of force into a small area on the articular cartilage would damage the surface, leading to osteoarthritis.
Also the meniscus helps with the stability of the knee joint.
The meniscus can become inflamed in a number of ways. The most common problem is when it becomes torn. The entire inner rim of the medial (inner) meniscus can be torn in what is called a bucket handle tear. The meniscus can also have a flap torn from the inner rim, or the tear can be a degenerative tear where a portion of the meniscus is frayed and torn in multiple directions.
Meniscus injuries can occur in any age group, but the causes are somewhat different for each age group. In younger people, the meniscus is tough and rubbery. Tears in the meniscus in patients under the age of thirty usually occur as a result of a forceful twisting injury.
In older people, the meniscus becomes degenerative and is much easier to tear. Meniscal tears in the older age group occur as a result of a fairly minor injury. Degenerative tears of the meniscus are commonly seen in osteoarthritis of the knee.
The most common problem caused by a torn meniscus is pain. The pain may be felt along the joint line where the meniscus is located or may be more vague and involve the whole knee. If the torn meniscus piece is large enough, locking may occur. Locking occurs when the fragment of torn meniscus gets caught and will not allow the leg to straighten completely.
Many types of arthritis can cause inflammation in and around the meniscus. Also, some people who have an extra fold of tissue inside the knee called a synovial plica, can have knee pain and inflammation that is sometimes confused for meniscus inflammation.
Diagnosis begins with a history and physical. An MRI scan is very good at showing the meniscus. Depending on the severity of the meniscus taer, it can be treated with conservative non-operative treatment... or it may require surgery.
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