A torn meniscus is one of the most common knee injuries. Each of the knees has 2 “C-shaped” pieces of cartilages called meniscus. They act as a cushion between your shinbone and thighbone in the knee joint. If you tear your meniscus it causes pain, stiffness and swelling. You may also have trouble extending your knee fully. Any physical activity that causes sudden twisting or rotation of the knee, especially when you are putting your weight on your knees, can lead to a torn meniscus.
What are the symptoms?
When the tear occurs, you may hear a popping sound in your knee and experience:
- Pain (while twisting or rotating)
- Difficulty straightening the knee fully
- Swelling or stiffness
- Feeling as if knee is locked in place when you try to move it
You should contact an orthopedic surgeon if you experience any of the symptoms mentioned above, and they are not improving after a few days. You may need immediate medical care if your knee locks or you are unable to bend the knee after straightening it.
Causes of Torn Meniscus:
The meniscus can get torn during activities that cause pressure and forced rotation or twisting of the knee. A sudden turn or pivot, heavy lifting, kneeling or deep squatting can lead to a meniscus tear. Athletes are usually at higher risk for this injury. Some of the sports involve sudden turns and stops which put you at risk for meniscus tears like:
The cartilage weakens with age. So, injury is more common in people above 30. Movements like stepping or squatting can cause injury in someone with a weak meniscus. The risk of a meniscus tear is also higher if you have Osteoarthritis.
Treatment of torn meniscus depends on the type, size and location of the tear.
To begin with, your orthopedic surgeon will suggest conservative methods like rest, icing, compression, elevation, and medication. Over-the-counter pain medications may help in relieving the pain. As long as your symptoms are improving, and your knee is stable, nonsurgical treatment may work for you.
Physical therapy: It can help in strengthening the muscles around your knee to help stabilize and support the knee joint.
Surgery: If conservative methods fail to give you relief or if there is knee locking, your doctor may recommend surgery. Knee arthroscopy is one of the most common arthroscopic procedures done by an orthopedic surgeon. A small incision is made and an arthroscope which has a camera and light is inserted inside the joint. Other small surgical instruments are inserted to either trim or repair the torn meniscus.
Once the initial healing is complete, your doctor will advise rehabilitation exercises. Regular exercises to restore joint mobility and strength are very important. Rehabilitation time for meniscus surgery is about 6-12 weeks. With proper diagnosis, treatment and physical therapy, patients usually return to their pre-injury state.