The meniscus is one of the most important parts of your knee, but it’s something we don’t often think about until it’s injured. You have two menisci situated between the tibia and femur in your leg, helping to shift your body weight from one bone to the next while you move. These pieces of fibrocartilage ensure that your knee is stable in your daily movements.
If the meniscus tears, you may find that it’s quite difficult to walk at first, although not impossible. After a few days, however, the knee will become swollen and stiff.
Other common meniscal tear symptoms include:
- A “popping” sensation when the meniscus tears
- Locking or catching in the knee
- A feeling that your knee is giving out
- Limited range of motion in the knee
To diagnose a torn meniscus, your doctor will talk to you about your symptoms and your medical history. Typically, your doctor can diagnose a meniscal tear with a simple physical examination. They will find the joint line in your knee where the meniscus is located and check for tenderness, which usually indicates a tear.
Now that we’ve answered, “What is a meniscal tear?” you may be curious about who this condition impacts. People of all ages could be at risk for a torn meniscus, but this condition is most often seen in athletes. Both contact and non-contact sports can be risky, as they can involve pivoting and twisting movements of the knee. Older patients with worn tissue are at a higher risk of tears.
Torn Meniscus Treatment
Your doctor will determine your best treatment method based on your age, activity level, and symptoms. Depending on the “zone” of your meniscus the tear is in, surgery may or may not be helpful.
In most cases, meniscal tears don’t require surgery right away. If your knee doesn’t swell or lock and your symptoms start to go away, it’s likely that your doctor will recommend a nonsurgical treatment method.
The RICE method of treatment is quite effective: Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. This treatment method is typically recommended for sports-related injuries. Rest and stop the activity that caused your meniscal tear. Apply cold packs for 20-minute periods throughout the day, use a compression bandage to reduce swelling, and elevate your leg higher than your heart.
Meniscal Tear Surgery
The most common meniscal tear surgery method is knee arthroscopy. Your knee surgeon will insert a small camera into the knee via a small incision. The camera gives a clear view of the knee, allowing the surgeon to insert surgical instruments to fix the tear.
Another procedure you may undergo is a partial meniscectomy. Your surgeon will trim the damaged meniscus tissue, which usually leads to a full range of motion and weight bearing almost immediately after surgery.
Meniscus repair surgeries are also quite common. In some cases, your surgeon may be able to stitch the torn meniscus pieces back together. This surgery typically comes with a longer recovery time than other surgeries since the meniscus has to heal back together.
After surgery, it’s likely that your doctor will recommend physical therapy. As you begin to exercise regularly, you’ll find that your strength and mobility in your knee increase. Your rehabilitation program may take place at home, but it’s a good idea to work with a physical therapist. Meniscus repairs take 3 to 6 months to heal, but meniscectomies only take about 3 to 6 weeks.
Meniscal Tear Prevention
Meniscal tears are quite common, but is there any way to prevent them? There are a few steps you can take to reduce your risk of meniscal tears if you know you’re particularly prone to them.
Don’t overextend yourself exercising. Start slow and work your way up over time. This will allow your knees to strengthen themselves properly. If you know your knee is unstable, consider wearing a knee brace. Finally, be sure you’re wearing athletic shoes that are intended for the sport or activity you’re involved in.
In most cases, those who suffer from meniscal tears will see a full recovery. If surgery is necessary, you can expect to be recovered following several months of physical therapy. Patients who undergo surgery could have an increased risk of arthritis in the future, because there’s less shock absorption in the joint.
Why Choose Comprehensive Orthopaedic Global?
Meniscal tears don’t have to be a total setback. Our team at Comprehensive Orthopaedic Global has undergone specific training concerning the diagnosis and treatment of meniscal tears, allowing us to serve you in the most efficient manner possible. We’ll come up with a personalized treatment plan and help you work with our physical therapists at COG Restore. Your rehabilitation program will help you return to your typical routine without pain.
To speak with a meniscal tear specialist on our team here at Comprehensive Orthopaedic Global in St. Croix, St. John, St. Thomas, or the Virgin Islands, please request an appointment using our online portal or contact us via phone at (340) 779-2663.