Torn Meniscus: Signs, Symptoms, and Treatments

Photo by: Bigstockphoto
Photo by: Bigstockphoto

Torn meniscus is a medical condition wherein the fibrocartilage strips in the knee are torn or ruptured. The fibrocartilage strips – called menisci – are located on the top of the tibia. They allow the femur or thigh bone to move.

This condition is caused by a forceful stop or twisting of the knee. When this happens, the femur grinds forcefully into the tibia, damaging the menisci. A torn meniscus is caused by a lot of things, usually sports injuries, degenerative joint disease and aging.

Symptoms of a Torn Meniscus

The most common signs and symptoms of meniscal tears are: pain while running or walking short distances, stiff knees or buckling knees. Usually, the patient cannot pinpoint the exact source of the pain. That’s because the fibrocartilage strips have varying levels of blood supply and nerves.

Limited range of motion of the knees and locking of the knees are signs of meniscal tears as well. If your knees keep popping when you walk or run, it could be a symptom of a torn meniscus too.

This condition will be diagnosed after completing a series of physical exams. Your doctor will test and “feel” the affected area before applying several diagnostics procedures. Finally, you will go through a Magnetic resonance imaging or MRI test to confirm the diagnosis of meniscal tearing.

Home Treatments and Recovery from Torn Meniscus

Treatment for torn meniscus will depend on the severity of the injury, the underlying condition of the knee joint and the location of the injury. The health of the patient will be taken into consideration as far as treatments go.

Meds and Rest

The most common, non-invasive treatments for torn meniscus caused by injuries are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), rest and exercises. Anti-inflammatory drugs help in managing pain while rest and exercise restore the knee’s mobility and range of motion.

Ice Packs and Crutches

If the condition is caused by an injury, a health care practitioner will apply ice packs on the affected area. The patient will be advised to limit physical activities and keep the injured knee elevated while at rest. Crutches are used to assist in walking, they help minimize weight on the injured knee.

Eventually, the pain and discomfort should go away on their own after resting and application of ice packs. Once you recover, your doctor may suggest quadriceps and hamstring exercises to boost mobility and flexibility.  Please note that these remedies work only on minor meniscus tears.

Surgery and Physical Rehabilitation

If say, the condition is severe, drugs and ice packs will only mask the pain temporarily. Your doctor may recommend surgery and physical rehabilitation. Surgery will help repair the torn meniscus and reduce pain. Rehabilitation helps improve flexibility and mobility.

After recovering from the surgery and healing through physical rehabilitation, you’ll have to limit physical activities that aggravate the knees.

Joint Replacement Surgery

For torn meniscus caused by degeneration of the knee, the last resort is a joint replacement surgery. This is recommended for patients with recurring or constant chronic pain, and limited range of motion of the knee. After healing from the surgery, the patient will also undergo physical rehabilitation to restore the knee’s mobility and flexibility.

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