Meniscal tears are among the most commonly reported of knee injuries. There are two menisci, one for the outside and one for the inside of the knee. Often they are referred to as shock absorbers placed between the thighbone and shin bone. Even though the menisci are of a tough rubbery like consistency, injuries can occur suddenly especially in contact sports and sports like tennis where you suddenly have to bend, pivot and stop. Body builders and weight lifters are also at risk when lifting from a squatting position. Other times the injury may also involve a tear of the cruciate ligament.
Many people experience a pop at the time of injury and after some days there is swelling and stiffness. Patients often remark that the knee feels “tight”. Sometimes the knee is unable to straighten completely and remains locked. Another distinguishing symptom is that the knee feels that it give way. In fact sometimes the knee actually does and they risk another injury when they fall.
The MRI scan (Magnetic resonance imaging) can confirm the diagnosis but is often held back from being recommended in New Zealand by ACC because of the cost.
As we age, the meniscus itself can degenerate and hence tear more easily. After the age of 40, more than 20% of the blood supply can be lost. Mr Matt Callison, a physician specialising in Sports Medicine Acupuncture who lectures around the world says “The meniscus, because of its anatomical nature, by default will have less than normal blood supply. This is why acupuncture and moxibustion is so effective in treating these type of sport injuries. These therapies greatly enhance blood circulation to the injured meniscus area and hence promote a more rapid healing response.”
Depending on where the tear is, surgery is not always successful and not always recommended.
In fact, research has now confirmed that placebo surgery for a meniscus tear is no more effective than real surgery. Considering that in the States, over 4 billion dollars a year is spent on this type of surgery that is no better than a placebo, acupuncture looks like a good, safe and effective alternative.
The standard rehabilitation process of physiotherapy and muscle exercises can take up to 12 weeks. Many patients have been told that after surgery they may still have pain, require ongoing physiotherapy or even need additional surgery.
Mr Alan Jansson, a well-known acupuncturist on Queensland’s Gold Coast who sees players of the Brisbane Lions football team, treats many meniscal tears before the surgeons have a chance to get to them. He said “Fortunately for some patients, they had a long waiting time to get into the system to see their surgeons or were waiting for their turn to get surgery and then sought pain relief with acupuncture. In many instances, the patients cancelled the surgery because their knee had close to fully recovered.” Mr Jansson also presents seminars around the world teaching his specialist style of traditional Japanese acupuncture. He went onto explain “The knee is a complex joint with many bones, tendons and ligaments. The root cause of the problem needs to be diagnosed because knee problems in most cases need additional treatment on the liver and/or the kidneys. I always stress to my students, treat locally of course, but you must at the same treat the cause of the problem and address the patients constitutional weaknesses to get optimal results.”
Mr Alan Jansson is to present a seminar in Auckland in February 2014.