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The Meniscus Myth: Know Your Knees

The New York Times suggests that an arthroscopic meniscectomy may not be the answer to your knee pain

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Are you suffering from pain when rotating or twisting your knees? Difficulty straightening your leg, swelling at the joint, or a popping sensation when you bend your knee? According the Mayo Clinic, this could mean you have a tear in your meniscus, one of the most common knee injuries.

    The meniscus is the cartilage in your knee, between your thigh and shin bones, that cushions and stabilizes your legs. Typically, a tear in the meniscus can happen one of two ways: through a sudden, acute sports injury (like a runner changing directions too quickly), or through wear and tear over time (usually naturally, sometimes accelerated by arthritis).

    As runners, the extra movement and pressure exerted on our knees in some cases may lead to more rapid degeneration of the meniscus. Treatment options are often rest, ice, pain relievers, strengthening exercises and physical therapy, but more severe cases may need arthroscopic surgery. 

    But before you go under the knife, you might want to think twice. Arthroscopic surgery on the meniscus is the most common orthopedic procedure in the country, performed over 700,000 times a year. According to an article The New York Times, a recent study in The New England Journal of Medicine indicate that the surgery may not be the best option in many of these instances. Rather, researchers suggest that the surgery should be utilized in more of the acute cases, rather than to combat natural wear and tear. 

    As with many other maladies, prevention and proper care before surgery is necessary is ideal. To take care of your knees now, Runner's World recommends decreasing impact by running on softer surfaces, and maximizing core and lower body strength. Glucosamine supplements may protect cartilage (though some scientists disagree over its effectiveness) but strength training and proper rest and ice procedures may be your best bet. If you're already experiencing pain, seek professional medical help and/or physical therapy.