The meniscus, meaning crescent in Greek, is a C-shaped disc inside the knee. It absorbs and reduces the burden applied to the knee - sort of like an air sole in running shoes. It can be said that the meniscus is one of the most important structures in our bodies, and the most prone to injury. The difficulty of treating an injured meniscus is because people tend to think little about it.
A meniscus tends to flip after a tear, and a flip increases inflammation. A cascade of events continues, but the importance lies in the fact that the tear tends to get bigger with activity if not treated (as in the saying, “a stitch in time saves nine”). With a flip or a new tear you get pain, but in time the flipped meniscus goes back into place and you have no pain.
The on-and-off or wax-and-wane nature of the pain makes people think it will go away or even that the knee has healed itself and is the major reason they don’t go to a hospital.
The term terrible triad came from the frequent events that commonly come with a meniscus injury: injury to the ligaments - these are something like glue or bond that fixes the bones into place, the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and the medial collateral ligament (MCL).
Most commonly, this combined injury occurs in soccer when a player has one foot on the ground and is attacked by an opponent. In this injury, there is often an audible pop or click, which may be followed by one or more of the following symptoms - knee pain, swelling, tenderness and a classic symptom of ‘knee locking.’
The treatment method depends on the extent of the injury, and can range from simple rest to extensive surgery, and the decision must be based on a thorough examination by a specialist with the help of simple x-rays, ultrasonography, an arthroscope or an MRI.
So the next time you’re in a soccer game and develop sudden knee pain that disappears like magic, don’t hesitate to go to a knee doctor.
Doctor Jay graduated from Korea University medical school and trained at the Korea University Medical School Hospital. He is currently chief executive of Everspring Hospital in Jeju. If you have any questions concerning health matters, ask Dr Jay at email@example.com
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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