What Is a Torn Meniscus?
The meniscus is the thick “C”-shaped cartilage on the tibia that assists in stabilizing the knee and leg, and improves the fit of the thigh bone on the shin bone while cushioning and distributing stress with weight bearing activities.
Injury to the meniscus can occur from any twisting or rotation activity, especially while weight is on the leg. Degeneration of the meniscus with age and impact activities is also common, as well as with osteoarthritis progression.
A tear in the meniscus can result in knee swelling or stiffness, difficulty with smoothly bending and straightening the knee, popping sensation in the knee joint or discomfort with weight bearing activities or twisting/rotating knee.
If you suspect a torn meniscus, it’s important to see an orthopedic or sports medicine provider who can properly diagnose your injury and create a treatment plan that helps you heal and reduces your risk of future injury.
A torn meniscus cannot heal by itself after injury. Treatment for a meniscus injury will vary based on your age, the type and location of the tear. A sports medicine provider will work closely with you to develop a treatment plan that gets you back to your favorite activities.
Treatment options may include:
- Medication – Anti-inflammatories can help relieve swelling and pain.
- Physical therapy – A physical therapist can recommend exercises to strengthen and support the injury and its surrounding muscles.
- Bracing – In some cases braces can off-load the area of the injured meniscus to provide symptomatic relief with activities.
- Activity modification – You may need to take a break from physical activity and modify daily activities to help promote healing and reduce inflammation and pain.
- Injections – Corticosteroid injections may be discussed or recommended to address inflammation related to meniscus injury.
- Surgery – Some meniscus injuries require surgical intervention of meniscus repair or partial meniscectomy (trimming out the affected area of meniscus) to restore motion and avoid further damage to the cartilage (bucket handle meniscus tear). Other meniscus injuries can be treated conservatively. If conservative measures fail to adequately address symptoms, surgery may be recommended.
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