A torn meniscus is an extremely common, and very painful injury, especially for athletes, although anyone can experience a meniscal tear. The meniscus is a C-shaped disc with a rubbery consistency that help to stabilize your knee, and balance your weight. Each knee has two menisci (the plural of meniscus) on the inner and outer sides of the knee. Menisci are often slow to heal because they have a notoriously poor blood supply when compared to other locations on the body.
Only the outer third of the meniscus has a blood supply which can make healing on the inner section very slow. Sometimes a patient will not know when or how they tore their meniscus, as pain may be the only symptom. This is especially true for older patients who may have simply stood up or kneeled down and experienced a tear.
More About Meniscal Tears
Mild Meniscal Tear: A meniscal tear can be minor, moderate or even severe. With a minor tear, you are likely to have at least some degree of swelling and pain. Typically, with a minor meniscal tear, the symptoms will subside in about 2-3 weeks. A small tear may be able to heal on its own, but should still be evaluated as it can worsen over time.
Moderate Meniscal Tear: An untreated moderate tear, on the other hand, may cause years of pain, stiffness, knee instability and may also include a popping sound or a locking sensation. The symptoms may come and go over time. Additionally, a moderate tear often sends pain shooting across the center or the side of the knee. Moderate meniscal tears often require medical treatment and possibly surgical intervention to heal.
Severe Meniscal Tear: In the case of a severe meniscal tear, torn sections of the meniscus may move into other locations in the joint space. Knee instability, locking, popping, pain, swelling, loss of range of motion, and instances where the knee will fail and give way, are all common. In the case of severe meniscal tears, medical treatment is required for full recovery.
If you suspect you have a torn meniscus, you should schedule an appointment with a qualified orthopedic surgeon as soon as possible. Your doctor can evaluate your range of motion, gait, and knee stability, and order tests such as an MRI, or CT scan to diagnose a meniscal tear. They can also advise you about surgery, physical therapy, supply any necessary bracing, and any required prescription medications to help lower inflammation and provide pain relief.
You may be directed to elevate, wrap or apply ice to your knee when it becomes painful or difficult to move or walk. After an exam and the proper diagnostic imaging, your doctor can determine which treatments are right for your torn meniscus. If you or a loved one is living with knee pain, or you would like more information about a torn meniscus, please contact Orthopaedic Associates at (440) 892-1440 to schedule an appointment.