Not only our knees are filled with tendons and cartilage, we also use them for virtually any movement we make. This combination makes our knees, and specifically our tendons and cartilage, very vulnerable to injuries. One of the most common areas people injure is their meniscus since any activity that requires us to rotate our knee can lead to a torn meniscus or other meniscus injury. However, even though meniscus injuries are very common, most people have no idea what there meniscus actually is or what it does.
What is a Meniscus
Basically the meniscus is a cushion made of cartilage that rests between the thigh bone and the shin bone. There are actually two menisci in each knee joint, one that sits on the inside of the knee joint and one of the outside of the knee joint. The meniscus that sits on the inside of the knee joint is known as the medial meniscus and the outer meniscus is known as the lateral meniscus. Both are c-shaped pieces of cartilage and are critical to proper knee function. They have a concave shape on the top and bottom that helps the meniscus to fit smoothly against the bones in the leg and help to ensure there is minimal friction.
Many people refer to the meniscus as “shock absorbers” since they are tough and rubbery much like the shocks on a bike or a car. They also have a similar function and are important just like shocks in a car. They are made of tough and rubbery material and help to keep the knee joint healthy, stable, and protected.
What Does a Meniscus Do?
The meniscus plays a very critical role in the knee joint and helps our body to distribute weight across the entire knee joint. When we put pressure on our knee, twist or turn our knee, our meniscus is at work making sure that the joint stays stable and is protected. It acts basically as a shock absorber, protecting our knee joint from wear and tear, and also works guides knee movement. This is incredibly important to knee joint health since walking doubles the weight on our knees, and running increases pressure on our knee joint 8 times over.
Important Things to Know About Your Meniscus
- Your meniscus weakens with age and loses some of its shock absorption ability. This makes older people more at risk for meniscal tears.
- Since blood does not flow to the entire meniscus, healing can be difficult and usually requires surgery. This is especially true to central meniscal tears.
- Meniscus tears are the most common knee injury out there and almost a million people get meniscal tear surgery every year.