Ask any professional athlete and they will tell you a torn meniscus is one of the most common knee injuries. That’s because any activity – sports-related or otherwise – that causes you to forcefully twist or rotate your knee, can result in a torn meniscus.
The meniscus is the C-shaped piece of tough, rubbery cartilage between the shinbone and thighbone that acts as a shock-absorbing cushion. When you sustain a torn meniscus, it causes pain, swelling, and stiffness within 24 hours, and you might also feel other signs and symptoms that include:
- A popping sensation when you attempt to straighten the knee
- Difficulty extending the knee fully
- Limited movement, as if your knee is locked in place
- The feeling that the knee is giving way
If left untreated, a part of a torn meniscus can come loose and slip into the joint. If this happens, you may need surgery to restore full knee function. The meniscus tear can also increase in size and lead to unnecessary complications, such as arthritis. This is why you should promptly consult with an orthopedist if you suspect you have sustained a meniscus tear.
Treatment and Recovery From a Torn Meniscus
Depending on the type, size, and precise location of your meniscus tear, recommended treatment for a torn meniscus is often conservative at first. The reason is tears associated with arthritis usually improve over time as arthritis itself is treated. Also, tears that are not associated with locking or blocking of knee motion become less painful over time and do not require surgery. Of course, if conservative treatment measures prove insufficient for recovery, surgery is indeed an option.
here are five basic treatment tips for a torn meniscus:
- Rest, rest, rest! You will need to avoid any activities that aggravate knee pain, especially those that involve twisting, rotating, or pivoting the knee. If you are insubstantial pain, you may need crutches to take pressure off the knee and support healing.
- Apply ice to reduce knee pain and swelling. Simply apply a cold pack or a towel filled with ice cubes for approximately 15 minutes at a time, while keeping the knee elevated, every four to six hours during the first two days of the injury, and then only as often as needed.
- Take pain medication when needed. Your orthopedic doctor will recommend over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as Advil, Aleve, or Motrin, to relieve mild to moderate knee pain, but may suggest prescription-strength varieties if your pain is severe.
- Do physical therapy. This option can help stabilize and support the knee joint by strengthening the muscles in the leg, particularly around the knee. These muscles will take on more pressure when you stand and walk, thus reducing the strain on the damaged meniscus.
- Don’t dismiss surgery. As a last resort for knee pain that does not respond to rehabilitative therapy, your doctor may recommend a minimally invasive arthroscopic procedure to repair the torn meniscus. If the tear cannot be repaired, the meniscus can be surgically trimmed, after which you will require physical therapy to increase knee strength and stability. In the case of advanced, degenerative arthritis, your doctor may recommend total or partial knee replacement.
If treated without surgery, recovery from a meniscus tear usually takes about six to eight weeks, depending on the type and severity of the tear. During the recovery period, your doctor may recommend low-impact activities as opposed to high-impact (e.g. walking instead of running). However, if you have a physically demanding job, especially on your feet, you may need to take extra time off from work while you recover.
Meniscal Tear Treatment Near You in San Antonio, Texas
If you notice knee pain that doesn’t seem to go away, you might have a meniscal tear. Don’t delay treatment. Call the Center for Orthopaedic Surgery and Sports Medicine at (210) 692-7400 to schedule an appointment, so one of our board-certified orthopedic surgeons can promptly diagnose and treat your condition. Or, if you prefer, complete our convenient online form to arrange your consultation. We look forward to seeing you and helping you get back on your feet as swiftly as possible.