The knee is an essential joint in the human body. It enables the leg to flex so you can perform various activities like walking or running. Each knee has C-shaped cartilage called the meniscus that cushions the joints. However, over the years, the mileages you cover can erode the joints causing a meniscus tear.
For every one-year increase in age, there is a 14% increase in the chances of having a meniscus tear. This means that most people will experience a meniscus tear at one point in their lives. It’s therefore essential that you gather enough knowledge about this condition to better manage it. Here is a detailed guide to get you started.
What Is a Meniscus Tear?
A meniscus tear is an injury that occurs on the cartilage between the femur and tibia, the meniscus. Each knee has two menisci, the medial located at the joint’s inner side and the lateral on the outer side. You are at a higher risk of meniscus tear if you participate in sports activities. The condition results in persistent pain and inability to move your knees. When neglected, it increases the risk of total knee replacement.
Causes of a Meniscus Tear
Acute meniscus tear happens when you engage in activities that suddenly change your knee direction, such as when you suddenly stop and turn when running. Sports activities like football, soccer, tennis, and basketball are the leading causes of a meniscus tear. The condition is becoming increasingly common with children who participate in sports from an early age. Heavy lifting and deep squatting could also lead to injury.
On the other hand, degenerative meniscus tear occurs in seniors. With age, the cartilage becomes weaker and thinner and is more prone to tear. For the elderly, even a simple twist as you get up from the chair can cause a meniscus tear. Additionally, if you have osteoarthritis, you are at a higher risk of tearing your meniscus.
Symptoms of a Torn Meniscus
When a meniscus tear happens, you will first hear a popping sound around the knee joint. It might not be painful at first, and most people can walk or continue playing after the initial injury. Afterward, however, you may begin to feel pain, especially when you touch the affected area. Other symptoms include swelling and stiffness, difficulty in bending or straightening the knee, and knee buckling.
Tips to Manage the Condition
Sometimes, conservative treatment can help heal the tear if it occurs on the outer meniscus. It can heal on its own since the area has a rich blood supply, so the tissue can quickly regenerate. First, when the injury happens, limit movement and rest your knee to relieve the pain. Place a bag of ice on the knee until the pain or swelling disappears. Alternatively, you can tie an elastic bandage on the injured area to compress the knee and minimize swelling.
Additionally, always place the leg in an elevated position, on a pillow while lying down. Avoid high-impact activities like running, jumping, or other sports till the knee fully recovers. You can also use anti-inflammatory medication like Motrin or Advil.
When to See a Doctor
If the tear happens on the meniscus’s inner side, it doesn’t have a good blood supply, so, it won’t heal independently. If your knee feels so painful that you can’t even move, or when the symptoms persist, it’s a good idea that you seek medical help. The doctor will first perform a physical exam to analyze the tear. They may also suggest X-ray or MRI tests to have a better look at your knee’s condition.
Depending on the tear’s severity, the specialist can recommend physical therapy to strengthen muscles around the knees. The doctor may also inject steroids into the knee to relieve pain and eliminate swelling. If all treatments fail to work, you might need special care from an orthopedic specialist. They may decide to perform surgery to remove or repair the torn part of the meniscus.
How to Prevent a Meniscus Tear
It can be a bit challenging to avoid a meniscus tear entirely since it happens due to accidents. However, there are various preventive measures that you can take to minimize the occurrence. Regularly exercise to strengthen your knee muscles and maintain flexibility. Using protective clothing to support your knees during sports also helps reduce the risk of injury.
It’s also a good idea to warm up with light activities before taking part in vigorous exercises or sports. Give yourself some time to rest in between workout sessions since fatigue can increase the chances of injury. Also, never make abrupt changes in your exercise routine. Instead, gradually, increase the intensity. Also, wear well-fitting shoes that provide adequate support.
Diagnosis and Treatment of Meniscus Tears at Mobility Bone & Joint Institute
A meniscus tear is quite common, but you can regain your pre-injury abilities with early diagnosis and proper care. Recovery may take anywhere from three to six weeks, but always remember that people react to treatment differently. Reach out to us at Mobility Bone & Joint Institute for more information or treatment options.
Do you have questions about the diagnosis and treatment of Cartilage (Meniscus) Tears at Mobility Bone & Joint Institute?
Call (978) 794-1946 or click here to schedule an appointment at our Andover, MA office.
Call (603) 898-2244 or click here to schedule an appointment at our Salem, NH office.