Meniscus Tears Are a Common, Treatable Issue

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Meniscus tears are among the most common injuries people have to their knees, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic SurgeonsOff Site Icon (AAOS).

You have two of these c-shaped pieces of cartilage in each knee joint, according to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon (NIH). Meniscus cartilage is tough but flexible and acts as a cushion between the ends of bones in a joint.

The meniscus exists to protect the joint, according to the NIH, by being a shock-absorber and lubricating the knee joint.

If you tear your meniscus, it can limit your ability to bend and extend your knee, according to the NIH.

You can easily tear your meniscus, according to the NIH, by:

  • Being hit in the knee, including while playing a sport
  • Kneeling down
  • Making a quick stop or change in direction while running, landing a jump or turning
  • Squatting down low and lifting something heavy
  • Twisting your knee

As people get older, the meniscus gets older as well, and it becomes easier to tear. However, anyone, at any age can have a meniscus tear, according to the AAOS.

Athletes are also at higher risk for meniscus tears because of sudden twists or squats, according to the AAOS. Being tackled or having other direct contact can also sometimes cause the meniscus to tear.

If your meniscus tears, you might initially feel a “pop” in your knee. Most people can still walk, and many athletes keep playing even with a tear, according to the AAOS. 

Within a couple days, meniscus tear symptoms, according to the AAOS, could include:

  • Being unable to move your knee in a full range of motion
  • Feeling like your knee is “giving away”
  • Locking of your knee
  • Pain
  • Stiffness
  • Swelling

Treating a meniscus tear depends on the size and location of the tear. 

The outside of the meniscus can often heal on its own, however, the inner two-thirds of the meniscus lack blood supply and cannot heal, according to the AAOS. 

Treatment for any kind of meniscus tear, according to the AAOS, could include:

Nonsurgical Treatment

  • Following the steps of RICE:
    • R – Rest: Take a break from whatever activity caused the tear. This could also include using crutches.
    • I – Ice: Use cold packs for 20 minutes at a time, at least three times a day.
    • C – Compression: Prevent more swelling and blood loss by wearing an elastic compression bandage.
    • E – Elevation: Recline and put your leg up so it is higher than your heart. This will help reduce swelling.
     
  • Using non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines, such as ibuprofen and naproxen, to reduce pain and swelling.
  • Surgical Treatment 

    If non-surgical options don’t help your symptoms, your physician might recommend surgery.

    • Partial meniscectomy: A complex tear in the inner meniscus usually needs this procedure to trim away part of the damaged meniscus tissue.
    • Meniscus repair: Some tears can be fixed by stitching the torn meniscus pieces together. Recovery for this procedure takes longer.

    Regardless of the type of treatment you need for your meniscus tear, you might require rehabilitation to get your knee back in good working order. Once you’ve healed, your doctor will prescribe rehabilitation exercises or appointments at a rehabilitation facility to help you regain your knee mobility and strength, according to the AAOS.

    Though some meniscus tears are accidental and unavoidable, there are some steps you can take to help prevent others. According to the NIH, you can help prevent a meniscus tear by:

    • Choosing shoes that fit and are in good condition.
    • Maintaining a healthy weight.
    • Slowly increasing your activity level and duration over time instead of all at once.
    • Strengthening leg muscles with specific exercises, including walking up stairs, riding a bicycle, and using weights.
    • Warming up before exercise and sports by walking and stretching the muscles in the front and back of the thighs.

    For more information about meniscus tears, talk with your doctor or visit www.premierhealthspecialists.org/ortho to find a physician.

    It's easy to get the care you need.

    See a Premier Physician Network provider near you.