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A torn meniscus is one of the most common injuries we see at Countryside Orthopaedics. Even though it is quite common, it can still be very problematic and can cause several issues in your everyday life.
A torn meniscus can occur anytime the knee is forcefully twisted or rotated, which can happen during strenuous activity, sports, or heavy lifting. There are varying degrees of intensity for these tears. Some will require surgery and others will resolve with proper rest and a little patience. As most of us want to avoid surgery whenever possible, the following article will discuss the most common reasons for a torn meniscus, how to avoid tearing your meniscus, and how to treat to a torn meniscus. In more minor cases, home treatment may be an option. In cases where the injury is more serious, Countryside Ortho is here to help.
What is The Meniscus?
The menisci are one of two pieces of cartilage that separate the tibia (shinbone) from the femur (thighbone). If you picture these bones joining behind the heart-shaped kneecap, it’s not hard to picture the crescent-shaped cartilage between them, connecting the two larger bones. The meniscus acts as a sort of shock absorber for all of the pressure that our knees put up with throughout our lives. All of the running, jumping, landing, lifting, we do over the course of our lives amounts to a lot of shock to absorb. It’s not surprising that this cartilage tends to tear, especially as we get older.
How to Avoid Tearing Your Meniscus
Although physical injuries are impossible to avoid altogether, there are certain practices which will reduce the likelihood of their occurrence.
The most important of these are:
- Proper stretching, to keep your muscles limber
- Strengthening your leg muscles, to support the area around the meniscus
- Strengthening your core muscles; the stronger your core is, the less work the rest of your muscles have to do to compensate
How You Can Tell if Your Meniscus is Torn
Some easily recognizable symptoms of a torn meniscus include the following:
- A popping sensation in the knee
- A locking sensation in your knee
How to Treat a Torn Meniscus
If you’re uncertain as to whether your meniscus is torn, and aren’t in desperate pain, you might try treating it with with the RICE method, which includes:
- Rest. Try not to overexert your knees. If possible, use a cane or crutches to help support yourself when walking.
- Ice. Ice your knee after any activity, including walking or exercise.
- Compression. To prevent additional swelling and blood loss, wear an elastic compression bandage.
- Elevation. Whenever you are able, elevate your knee. This reduces swelling by reducing the flow of blood to the area.
Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or Naproxen (Aleve) can also be helpful to reduce the swelling.
Changing Your Habits
Most importantly, though, if you think you might have a torn meniscus, you should change your workout regimen accordingly. Any activity that puts an undue amount of pressure on the knees should be suspended. More gentle activities such as swimming and cycling are often fine and will not damage the meniscus further. It is also essential that you listen to your body. If you are still in pain an hour after your activity, you may need professional assistance in dealing with your torn meniscus.
In certain cases, physical therapy may be necessary for full recovery from a torn meniscus. Physical therapy, which works to restore the use of your knee without medicine or surgery, can often improve a condition without resorting to surgery. If you’ve tried treating the injury yourself and feel that physical therapy might be helpful for your torn meniscus, we’re here to help.
If the meniscus is damaged in a way that requires extensive repair, arthroscopic surgery may be necessary. As the knees are delicate and can often be damaged, knee arthroscopy is one of the more commonly performed arthroscopic surgeries. Luckily, arthroscopic surgery is minimally invasive, leads to shorter hospital stays, minimal scarring, and faster recovery times. Whether the meniscus can be repaired or damaged sections of it need to be removed, Countryside will determine the solution that’s right for you.
A torn meniscus is quite common, but this doesn’t make the pain any less when it’s your torn meniscus. It’s best to make sure you know what you’re dealing with so you don’t cause more damage. At Countryside Orthopaedics, we believe in better safe than sorry. Make an appointment to get it checked out with one of our doctors or physician assistants.