The following is designed to present an overview of Meniscal (Cartilage) Tears so that you might better understand what it means and the treatment options available.
There are two types of cartilage in the knee joint. The first type is located between the two bones of the joint, and these are called the medial and lateral menisci (meniscus, singular). The two of these cartilage structures sit on top of the tibial plateau; one on the inner side or medial side of your knee, and other on the outer side or lateral side of your knee. These are fairly thick, fibrous, C-shaped structures that cushion, protect and stabilize the knee, yet are often torn in injuries. In cross section, or when cut across, they are triangular in shape. They are important and have multiple functions, the most important of which are weight bearing and/or load transmission, joint stability, cushioning, and joint lubrication.
The other kind of cartilage lines the joint surfaces and acts like a cap to cover the ends of each bone. This cartilage is called articular cartilage. It is a smooth, slick, shiny white substance which, in its normal, healthy state, covers, protects and cushions the joint itself, as well as allowing the surfaces to glide against each other. You have probably seen this on the ends of animal bones, such as chicken joints, etc. This is the type of cartilage which is affected by the wearing-down process of arthritis
The meniscus can be torn in many different ways. The most common mechanisms are twisting, bending or squatting. This is often a painful episode accompanied by a click, a pop, or a catching sensation. Some patients, however, can tear a cartilage and have no specific recollection of when or how they did it. In general, the meniscus is tougher and harder to tear in young people, and a history of significant trauma is often the case in this age group. Most patients with a torn cartilage will have one or more of the following symptoms: pain, clicking, popping, catching, locking, and/or swelling. Locking occurs when the torn part of the cartilage gets caught between the two bones and cannot get out of this position.
- Next >>