Healing from One of the Most Common Knee Injuries
Have you been experiencing pain or swelling in your knee, or do you get a popping sensation when you turn a certain way? Does your leg lock up or seem stiff? Are youhaving difficulty bending or straightening out at your knee? There’s a good chance you’ve torn your meniscus.
What Is Meniscus?
Meniscus is cartilage that provides cushioning on the sides of your knee. There’s meniscus on the outside of the knee (the lateral meniscus) and the inside (the medial meniscus). The most common cause of a torn meniscus is twisting or turningthe upper leg when your foot is planted and your knees are bent, such as when you make a sudden change of direction. Meniscus tears are more common as you get older and cartilage starts to weaken.
While the meniscus can be completely severed, it’s more common for a little flap of cartilage to separate from the rest of the meniscus. An X-ray generally won’t show torn meniscus, but an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) typically will.
How Do You Treat Torn Meniscus?
Treatment typically depends on the location and extent of the tear. You may opt for different types of treatment based on your age and level of physical fitness and whether you’ve had a prior injury.
If you suffer a small tear on the outer layer of the meniscus, you may be able to heal by simply resting your knee as much as possible. Blood flow is generally much better on the outer portion of the meniscus, increasing the chances that the meniscus will heal on its own. The RICE approach (rest, ice, compression, and elevation) may be sufficient.
Most meniscus tears, however, are in the body of the meniscus, where there’s an insufficient flow of nutrients to promote self-healing. In those situations, you’ll likely need surgery to either repair or remove some part of the meniscus. Unless you needsignificant meniscus repair, the surgery is customarily done arthroscopically (a minimally invasive procedure) on an outpatient basis. If you do require repair, your doctor will likely prescribe a brace afterward to help stabilize your knee.