Knee injuries are caused by an external force. The most common injuries affect the menisci, cruciate ligaments, collateral ligaments and bones. Pain, swelling and sometimes an audible crack or tear indicate an injury. RICE treatment should be applied as the first measure.
Ligament and meniscus injuries can occur on their own or together. The “unhappy triad” refers to simultaneous injury to the anterior cruciate ligament, medial collateral ligament and inner meniscus.
The following symptoms occur immediately:
- Shooting pain
- Often a crack or tearing sound can be heard when the accident occurs
- Blockage of the joint
After a few days / weeks:
- Weakening / wastage of muscles
- Loss of stability (lower leg suddenly “buckles”)
The symptoms are less severe for slow meniscus tears caused by ageing and for ligament injuries that have not healed fully. The signs include pain, swelling, overheating, temporary blockage of the knee, a feeling of instability and wasted thigh muscles.
Causes and treatment
In younger people, meniscus and ligament tears are usually caused by an accident:
- Knee that snaps sideways
- Abrupt twisting of bent knee
- Overstretching or deep knee bend (deep squat)
In older people, meniscus tears are mostly caused by arthritis or by wear and tear. The meniscus frays or tears over time.
Further treatment by your doctor / in hospital
- Careful examination of the knee (pain, assessment of ability to move the knee, physical examination)
- Ultrasound (sonography)
- MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)
- Keyhole surgery (arthroscopy) allows an even more precise examination and is often also the best course of treatment
- Operation (arthroscopy, e.g. removal of damaged parts of meniscus)
- Not always required/advisable, individual decision
What can I do myself?
Apply RICE treatment as the first measure:
- Rest: immediately stop the sporting activity
- Ice: cool the ankle by applying ice or a cool pack (be careful not to apply directly to the skin)
- Compression: using an elastic bandage
- Elevation: keep the injured area raised
- Cooling home remedies, e.g. quark compresses
- Don’t use warming lotions or take hot baths or saunas, etc. for at least 24 hours
- Don’t do sports that involve fast changes of direction (tennis, football, martial arts, etc.)
When to see a doctor?
- Very severe pain with no improvement
- Extensive bruising (haematomas)
- Instability of knee joint
- Audible crack or tear during the accident
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