What is a Torn Meniscus

Torn-Meniscus-TearThe meniscus is part of your knee. There are two C-shaped pieces of cartilage called menisci. The left is your medial and the right is called your lateral meniscus. They provide cushioning between the shin and thigh bones.

Meniscus tears are one of the most common knee injuries. They happen when your knee is forcefully twisted. Activities that cause this rotation can tear the meniscus. It is much worse when your full weight is on it.

When torn, the meniscus swells and becomes stiff, causing pain. It can be difficult to bend the knee fully. Additionally, it may feel like there is a block to knee motion.

Symptoms of a Torn Meniscus

Having a torn meniscus causes the following symptoms in the knee:

  • Swelling and stiffness
  • Pain during rotation or twisting
  • A popping sensation
  • Difficulty extending the knee

It also feels as if your knee is giving way. Or as though your knee is locked in place.

In addition, a meniscus tear could need medical attention. If you are unable to move your knee as usual, see your doctor. Additionally, if there is severe pain and swelling, visit your doctor.

Also see, Could my knee pain be a sign of a torn meniscus or arthritis?

Causes of a Meniscus Tear

This injury can be caused from any activity causing rotation to the knee. Forceful twisting or aggressive pivoting can cause a meniscus tear. Furthermore, sudden stops and turns can cause them too. Kneeling for an extended time, deep squatting, and heavy lifting are also causes.

Common Risk Factors & Complications

As adults get older, degenerative changes increase the risk of meniscus tears. The injury can occur with little or no trauma. The risk for a torn meniscus is also high for athletes. Contact sports like football increase the risk. Also, sports like basketball and tennis with pivots and stops are a risk. Obesity is another common risk factor placing additional pressure on the knee.

It feels like your knee is going to give way. Meniscus tears interfere with normal knee movement. In time, it can cause persistent knee pain and eventually osteoarthritis.

Treatment Options for a Meniscus Tear

Conservative treatment is the first option. It can also allow the injury to heal on its own. This will depend on the location and size of the tear. If arthritis is the cause, you need to treat that first. Eventually, the tear will heal as the arthritis is treated. Tears not associated with locking do not require surgery. In these cases, the doctor will prescribe:

Rest to avoid aggravating the knee. You can use crutches for severe pain. They will relieve pressure and allow for healing.

Ice can reduce pain and swelling. A towel of ice cubes or a bag of frozen vegetables will work. Only ice the knee for fifteen minutes at a time. Repeat this every 4 to 6 hours for a few days.

Over the counter medication can help with pain and relieve inflammation.

Additionally, your doctor may recommend physical therapy. This will strengthen the muscles around your knee. Stabilizing the knee joint will prevent further injury.

While many meniscus tears do not need surgery, some will. When conservative therapy does not alleviate pain, surgery is an option. Surgery can repair tears especially in children and young adults. If it cannot be repaired then another procedure is done. The meniscus is trimmed through tiny incisions. You have to follow up with exercise to maintain knee strength.

A torn meniscus caused by degenerative arthritis is treated differently. It often involves a knee replacement. Some younger patients can get a meniscus transplant. This is only possible for those that do not have arthritis. A meniscus is transplanted from a cadaver. Doctors only do this when symptoms remain after trying other options first.

If you are experiencing a meniscus tear , contact us today at 888-409-8006 for a specialist near you.


Knee Specialists

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