How to Identify and Treat Meniscal Tears

Meniscal tears are common knee injuries. These tears can occur while twisting or turning quickly, usually when your foot is planted. This can sometimes cause you to experience intense knee pain and swelling in your knee joint.

If you are experiencing this kind of knee pain, schedule an appointment with OrthoNeuro. Our board-certified orthopedic and sports medicine specialists can evaluate your situation to determine which type of treatment is best for you.

Contact one of our many convenient locations throughout Greater Columbus, Ohio today! We look forward to helping you relieve your knee pain and get back to doing what you love.

What Is the Meniscus?

You have 2 C-shaped pieces of cartilage that sit in your knee joint called menisci. The lateral meniscus is found on the outside of your knee joint, and the medial meniscus is found on the inside of your knee joint. The menisci function as a shock absorber between your thigh bone and shine bone.

Causes of Meniscus Tears

Meniscus tears can occur through injury or aging. A meniscus injury often occurs in sports that involve twisting or changing direction quickly.

A meniscus tear can also occur while kneeling or in a deep squat position. Degenerative meniscus tears occur through aging and can occur with little or no trauma. Meniscus tears often occur simultaneously with other knee injuries, such as anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries.

What Are the Symptoms of a Meniscus Tear?

You may not experience any symptoms for the first 24 hours after you have torn your meniscus. The following symptoms may develop if you have a meniscus tear:

  • Knee pain, especially when you twist, rotate, or flex your knee
  • Swelling in your knee
  • A popping sensation in your knee
  • Difficulties with knee motion
  • Locking in your knee when you try to move it
  • Feeling that your knee is giving way

Diagnosis of a Meniscal Tear

A physical exam is usually sufficient to diagnose a torn meniscus. You may be asked to move your knee and leg into different positions, walk around the office, or even squat to identify the tear. Your diagnosis could also include the use of imaging tests or knee arthroscopy.

Imaging Tests

Your orthopedic surgeon may request imaging tests to achieve a more accurate diagnosis.

The following imaging tests may be used in the diagnosis of a meniscus tear:

  • X-rays: Your meniscus won’t show up on an X-ray because it is made from cartilage. However, an X-ray may detect other knee problems that have similar symptoms.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan: This type of scan will allow your doctor to see detailed images of the tissue within your knee, including the meniscus.

Knee Arthroscopy

Your doctor may use arthroscopy in some cases to detect a meniscal tear. This procedure involves inserting a tiny camera through an incision in your knee. Using the same incision, it is possible for the surgeon to trim or repair your meniscus.

What Is the Best Treatment for a Meniscus Tear?

Conservative treatment is often suggested first when it comes to treating a torn meniscus. When a torn meniscus is associated with arthritis, it will often improve over time as you treat the arthritis, so surgery usually isn’t necessary.

When a torn meniscus presents without the symptoms of locking or a block to knee motion, it will also usually improve over time without the need for surgery.

To treat the symptoms of a torn meniscus, your doctor will recommend the following non-surgical treatments:

  • Rest—You should avoid activities that aggravate your injured knee, especially those that cause you to twist, rotate, flex, or pivot on your knee. Crutches can also be used to take the weight off your knee while it heals.
  • Ice—The use of ice helps to reduce knee pain and swelling. Apply a cold pack for 15 minutes every 4 to 6 hours for the first day or two after injury, and then as often as needed after that. Keeping your knee elevated can also help.
  • Medication—NSAIDs such as ibuprofen can also help ease knee pain and swelling.
  • Physical TherapyA physical therapist can give you exercises to strengthen the muscles around your knee and in your legs. Stronger thigh muscles can contribute to the stability of the knee joint.

Meniscal Tear Surgery

If symptoms persist after 3 months or if your knee locks, then your doctor may recommend that your meniscus be repaired through surgery. Surgical repair for a torn meniscus is usually successful, especially in children and younger adults.

If repair is impossible, the meniscus might be surgically trimmed. In this case, you may need to do exercises to increase and maintain knee strength and stability after surgery.

If your meniscus tear is associated with advanced, degenerative arthritis, you may require a knee replacement. A meniscus transplant might be appropriate for younger patients whose symptoms persist after surgery.

How Long Does a Torn Meniscus Take to Heal?

Recovering from a torn meniscus usually takes 6 to 8 weeks when conservative treatments are used. However, recovery after surgery may take anywhere from 6 weeks to 4-5 months in the event of a meniscus root repair.

Contact OrthoNeuro Today to Relieve Your Knee Pain

If you feel you have torn your meniscus, schedule an appointment with OrthoNeuro today! Our specialists can be found at our many locations throughout Columbus, OH. We have the experience necessary to offer you the quality care you deserve.

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