In case you didn’t know, the meniscus is a C-shaped piece of cartilage in your knee that provides a rubbery cushion between your shin bone and your thigh bone. Each leg features two menisci, the lateral meniscus at the outer edge of the knee joint and the medial meniscus at the inner edge. The meniscus is extremely important because it helps to balance your weight across the knee joint.
The only problem is that the meniscus is in a precarious position, and it can easily become torn during intense activity, or even through everyday motions. What are common torn meniscus causes and symptoms? What should you do about a torn meniscus? Here’s what you need to know, especially if you suspect you’re suffering from this condition.
The most noticeable symptom of a torn meniscus is pain, followed by swelling in the area. If you’ve suffered only a minor tear, this could heal on its own with rest in just a couple of weeks. For a moderate tear, you could experience increasing pain and swelling over the course of a couple of days following the injury, as well as sharp pains when you crouch down or twist your knee. You might have some trouble walking, as well.
If you don’t treat a moderate tear, there’s a chance you could keep reinjuring the area, preventing full healing and leading to months or even years of intermittent pain symptoms. A severe tear is much more serious and could lead to a variety of problems. Pain and swelling could be intense, and you’ll definitely have trouble twisting or squatting down.
In addition, a severe tear could lead to instability and a wobbly feeling when you walk, with your knee giving out when you take a step. Even worse, portions of the cartilage might slip into the spaces between the joint, causing your knee to lock up, or to pop or hitch when you bend it. Without treatment, these symptoms may never go away.
Often, people don’t realize they’ve torn a meniscus. Many simply assume their knee is achy from overuse, and when the pain and swelling recede in a few days or a couple of weeks, they go on about their business, potentially reinjuring the delicate area.
A torn meniscus is most often caused by physical activity in which the knee is twisted or turned, generally while the foot is planted and the knee is bent. Consider the range of motion of a golf swing, but faster and with a more pronounced bend in the knee, and you’ll get a general idea. Playing sports and attempting to lift heavy objects are probably the most common causes of this injury.
Once your orthopedic surgeon in Richmond VA diagnoses a torn meniscus, you’ll likely have to submit to rest and icing, as well as elevating the knee when possible. This could be enough to address mild or even moderate tears. Physical therapy may also be prescribed.
For more severe tears, you might require surgery to repair or even remove a portion of the meniscus, after which you may need anywhere from just a few days up to several weeks of healing time before returning to regular activities