Maybe you felt a sudden "pop" when engaged in a sporting activity. Or perhaps you feel as though your knee is giving way while doing something as easy as getting out of a chair. And even though you are able to walk, you notice a swelling in your knee which is causing you pain and discomfort.
Do any of these symptoms and signs sound familiar to you? You may have injured the meniscus in your knee. This condition is known as a meniscus tear. It can affect people of all ages and from all walks of life, including professional athletes, people who do strenuous exercise only during weekends, and everyone in between.
Please get in touch with Dr.Rajesh Thunuguntla, an acclaimed orthopedic specialist in Telangana. He has a depth of experience and is one of the preferred surgeons to his numerous patients who come from near and far for a consultation with him.
What is a meniscus tear?
The meniscus is a portion of your cartilage that buffers and stabilizes your joint. It shields your bones from deteriorating. A firm twist of your knee, however, is enough to tear your meniscus. In certain cases, a bit of the torn cartilage breaks off and gets stuck in your knee joint and causes it to lock up.
Meniscus tears are pretty common in contact sports like wrestling, ice hockey, football, etc. They can also occur in non-contact sports such as tennis, volleyball, etc., that require jumping. They can occur when a person suddenly changes direction while running and frequently happen combined with other knee ailments, including ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) and PCL (posterior cruciate ligament) injury.
What are the signs and symptoms of a meniscus tear?
A meniscus tear might cause the following symptoms:
- A popping sensation at the time of injury.
- Difficulty in straightening and bending your leg.
- Stiffness and swelling in your knee.
- Pain in your knee, particularly when rotating or twisting it.
- A feeling of your knee being locked or stuck in place.
- A sensation that your knee is giving way.
The discomfort might not be intense or severe at first. You may even manage to walk and play despite the injuries. However, your knee will hurt a lot once the inflammation has set in.
Does a meniscus tear heal by itself?
Some people believe that meniscus tears will repair on their own given enough time. However, there are several kinds of meniscus tears, and some will not heal without professional intervention.
If the tear is on the exterior 1/3 of your meniscus, it may mend on its own. In rare cases, you may require surgery to repair it. This is because this external location of the meniscus, known as the red zone, has a lot of blood flow, and your blood cells can help regenerate the meniscus tissue or help it recover faster post-surgery if all surgery is required.
However, if the tear is in the interior 2/3, known as the white zone, where there is no blood flow, it cannot be healed and will need to be surgically clipped or removed.
How is a meniscus tear treated?
The first step in addressing a meniscus tear is to get the injury evaluated by an orthopedic specialist. During the evaluation, they may check for discomfort in your knee joint and determine the mobility in your knee by moving your leg. They might also conduct imaging tests like an MRI or an X-ray to determine where the tear is and how severe it is.
The location, severity, type of tear, age, and activity level will determine the optimal treatment option for you.
Tears that can repair on their own may benefit from treatments, such as:
- RICE stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation.
- Physical therapy.
- Medications that reduce inflammation.
What type of surgery may be required if other therapies do not work?
Arthroscopic knee surgery is usually the best approach for more extensive tears. The purpose of surgery is to repair or remove the torn part of the meniscus.
In this procedure, an arthroscope, which has a small camera attached at the end, is placed into a tiny incision in your knee to help the surgeon mend or extract the tear with small tools inserted through another similar incision.
What is the recovery time after surgery?
The length of time it takes for your knee to recover depends on various factors, including the severity of your meniscus tear. Full recovery after surgery might take anywhere from 4 - 6 weeks based on the type of procedure and other conditions.
However, please remember that everyone heals at a different pace. You may require physical therapy after surgery to strengthen and improve your knee, recover functional mobility, and accelerate your healing so that you can return to your normal activities at the earliest.
How can I prevent a meniscus tear?
Meniscus rips are difficult to prevent since they usually occur without warning. However, you can lower your risk by following these guidelines:
- Exercise regularly, mainly leg strength training. Strong leg muscles serve to protect, support and stabilize the knee.
- Before playing sports or indulging in any rigorous activity involving your legs, ensure that you stretch and warm up properly.
- Allow plenty of time for your muscles to rest and rejuvenate between activities.
- Please wear suitable footwear for your choice of sport, and make sure that they are strapped securely in place while you are playing.
- A knee brace can help support your knee if your knee is weak, unstable, or has had a past knee injury.
The knee joint is one of the strongest joints in your body and is designed to perform various tasks, including supporting your body in an erect position. It aids in the lowering and raising of your body and ensures stability. Many everyday tasks, such as walking, jogging, sitting, and standing, require movement at the knee joint.
If a meniscus tear is left untreated, a part of the injured meniscus may break free and slip into the joint. If that happens, you may require surgery to regain complete knee function. Meniscus tears that are left untreated can grow in size and cause issues like arthritis. It is essential that you address any injury related to your knee at the earliest. Do not let knee pain prevent you from participating in your favorite sport or activity.
Please schedule an appointment with Dr.Rajesh Thunuguntla, a top-notch orthopedic doctor in Telangana, to avail of his advanced, sophisticated, safe, and cost-effective treatments.