Each of your knees contains two menisci, which are wedge-like, rubbery cushions embedded between the femur (thighbone) and shinbone (tibia). Meniscal cartilage curves like the letter “C” at the inside and outside of each knee. It is also one of the most commonly injured parts of the knee.
Acting as a stabilizing tissue, the meniscus helps your knee joint carry weight, glide, and turn in various directions. It also keeps your femur and tibia from grinding against each other.
Football players and others engaged in contact sports may tear a meniscus when they twist their knees, pivot, cut to the left or right, or decelerate. Meniscal tears often occur at the same time as other injuries such as a torn ACL (anterior cruciate ligament). Meanwhile, older people can injure the meniscus without any trauma when the cartilage wears thin with age and results in a degenerative tear.
The orthopedic specialists at the Center for Orthopaedic Surgery and Sports Medicine in San Antonio are experts at diagnosing and treating meniscal tears. Learn more about this injury below.
Torn Meniscus Symptoms
When you tear the meniscus, you may experience a “popping” sensation and may not realize what has happened until symptoms of pain, tightness, and inflammation set in, followed by stiffness, tenderness in the joint line, and a collection of fluid often referred to as “water on the knee.”
Unless the tear is treated, a fragment of the meniscus may loosen and wander into the joint, causing the knee to slip, pop, or get stuck at a 45-degree angle until it is manually manipulated. That’s why it’s important to see a doctor right way if you suspect you have a meniscal tear.
Torn Meniscus Treatment
Your orthopedist will likely order an MRI to help assess the degree of damage to your meniscus, and he may recommend arthroscopic surgery to examine the inside of the joint.
If your knee is stable and doesn’t lock, the only treatment necessary for a meniscal tear is rest, ice, compression, and elevation. That’s because blood vessels nourish the outer edges of the meniscus, giving small tears a chance to heal on their own. This may be combined with oral nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications or cortisone injections to alleviate pain and swelling.
You may need surgery for larger tears on the outer edge of the meniscus, for tears in the inner area, for a torn meniscus that won’t heal on its own, or if your knee becomes painful, stiff, or locked.
In most cases, your doctor will perform arthroscopy to trim damaged pieces of cartilage and repair the tear. After surgery, you’ll wear a cast or brace to immobilize your knee and go through physical therapy to help you resume your normal activities.
If you have knee pain that won’t go away, you might have a meniscal tear. Don’t delay treatment – call the Center for Orthopaedic Surgery and Sports Medicine today. One of our orthopedic surgeons will promptly diagnose and treat your condition. To schedule an appointment, call (210) 692-7400 or complete our convenient online form.