What is the Meniscus and What Happens if You Injure It?

When you think of knee injuries who comes to mind? Football players or old people, right? Guess what: knee injuries can happen to anyone.

First, Some Anatomy

In order to understand how knee injuries happen, it’s important to understand what the parts of the knee are and how they work together.

There are four parts to each of your knees: bones, tendons, ligaments, and meniscus. You’ve undoubtedly learned about the first three already. Most of us learn about these in our first biology classes. But what about that meniscus thing? What’s that?

The meniscus is nature’s shock absorber. It is made up of cartilage and nerves and lives between the bones in your joints. Its purpose is to keep the knees from rubbing together when you move and to help distribute your weight evenly through your entire leg.

Unfortunately, like many important body parts, the meniscus is fragile and vulnerable to injury. Sometimes, the injury’s severity requires torn meniscus surgery to heal properly.

How Meniscus Injuries Happen

Like the rest of our knees, the wear and tear of everyday movement take a toll. How quickly you wear out your knees menisci (yes that’s the plural; we checked) depends on how active you are. This is why athletes are prone to knee injuries earlier in life—they use their bodies a lot more than someone who works a physically undemanding job.

Sometimes, though, your meniscus tears because your knee gets moved in a way that it really should not be moved. For example, when you jump and your knee twists as you land? That twisting motion can cause damage to the meniscus and lead to tears. It can also happen if something comes into sharp contact with your knee, which is why so many people associate this injury with football players.

My Knee Feels Weird, Am I Injured?

For the slow burn meniscus injury, the first signs of a problem are typically pain and a limited range of motion. If you find that you can’t bend (or unbend) your knee as easily or as far as you used to, that’s cause for concern. Having your knee “lock up” is another troublesome sign.

Other common symptoms of this injury include the usual suspects: pain, swelling, and stiffness.

What Do I Do If My Knee Hurts?

If you’ve suffered a severe meniscus tear or knee injury, trust us: you’ll know. The pain associated with extensive joint injuries is usually severe. If the pain isn’t severe or is intermittent, the first thing to do is rest. Sit down or lie down.

While you’re sitting or lying down, call your doctor. Explain your symptoms and how they started. Follow whatever instructions your doctor gives you to the T.

What About Surgery?

If you need to have surgery for your meniscus tear, try not to panic. These surgeries are safe and while the recovery period might take a while (recovery usually lasts 3-12 weeks), the odds are that you’ll be able to recover completely and get back to your normal life without any lingering issues!

Your knees are the biggest joint in your body. Take care of them and they’ll take care of you!


Nora Charles is a freelance writer that has worked with many bloggers for several years now.

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