A “pop” is often felt or heard when a meniscal tear is sustained. Swelling increases gradually over the next 24 to 72 hours, and the knee stiffens. Initially, weight-bearing may be possible. The knee may “lock” or be unable to fully bend or straighten. A “giving-way” sensation is common with knee meniscal injuries.
Meniscal injuries may be either traumatic or degenerative in nature. Traumatic tears are due to high impact activity like tackling in sport, or sudden twisting and bending movements. Degenerative Injuries are due to a gradual thinning of the meniscus, often followed by a relatively small force causing a tear.
For large tears, a surgeon may repair or remove the meniscal. The downside to surgical intervention is that it often speeds up degenerative changes in the knee and increases the likelihood of needing a total knee replacement later in life. Physical therapy intervention focuses on joint mobilization techniques aimed at restoring normal movement. Once this is achieved, further treatment strengthens the quadriceps, calf, hamstring and gluteal muscles to prevent recurrence and decrease further stress on the meniscal structures. Ultrasound, ice, and electrical-stimulation help decrease inflammation in the initial stages of treatment. A knee brace may provide additional support.