Meniscus tears are common causes of knee pain. Each knee has two menisci, C-shaped cartilage discs that absorb shock and stabilize the knee joint. Tears in these discs often occur during contact sports, where a player is twisting, pivoting, or being tackled. They are more likely to occur in older individuals as a result of degeneration of the cartilage over time.
Experienced, Technologically-Advanced Care
Our team of expert specialists combine sports medicine physicians, bone imaging radiologists, physical therapists, and orthopedic surgeons to provide you with a thorough, wraparound approach to your injury. To reduce recovery time and increase accuracy, we use minimally invasive surgical techniques and cutting-edge fiber optic technology. Our doctors will take as much time as needed to answer all your questions and create a treatment plan that works for you.
Meniscus Tear: What You Need to Know
What is a Meniscus Tear?
The two menisci in the knee joint are rubbery, cartilage discs that act as shock absorbers, protecting the bones of the knee and keeping your weight balanced steadily across the joint. There is one meniscus on the outside of the knee joint and one on the inside. Tearing of these discs generally occurs when the foot is planted and the knee twists or turns quickly, often during athletic events. Older individuals, whose cartilage has been worn down over time, are more susceptible to meniscus tears.
In addition to pain, a meniscal tear may cause swelling of the knee joint, limited range of motion, locking of the joint, or a clicking or popping sound when moving the knee. The knee could also feel wobbly or unsteady. Meniscal tears that are caused by a sports injury often occur in conjunction with other knee injuries, like an anterior cruciate ligament tear.
Sports that involve twisting or turning while on one leg, like basketball, football, and tennis, increase the risk of meniscus tears. Wearing appropriate protective gear and using proper form when playing sports can help lessen the risk of a tear caused by sudden twisting or impact. A doctor may also be able to recommend exercises that strengthen the leg muscles, helping to protect and stabilize the knee.
Diagnosis and Treatment: Meniscus Tear
If you seek medical treatment for a meniscus tear, the doctor will ask questions about when the pain started and your physical activity, and will perform a physical exam to determine whether a meniscus tear is the cause of your pain. They may also order X-rays or an MRI. The specialists at Porter Medical Center take a conservative approach to treating a torn meniscus, attempting to alleviate the pain from a meniscus tear with non-surgical remedies first. Smaller tears or those on the outer edge will often heal on their own by using the remedies below:
- R.I.C.E. (rest, ice, compression, elevation)
- Physical therapy
- Over-the-counter pain medication (ibuprofen, naproxen, and aspirin for inflammation; acetaminophen for pain)
Others require arthroscopic surgery, where a tiny camera is inserted through a small incision to both examine and repair a torn meniscus. Through fiber optic technology, the knee surgeon can see the inside of the knee joint displayed on a television monitor. The surgeon can then insert instruments through other small incisions to sew the torn meniscus back together or to remove a portion of the meniscus that has torn off completely.
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