The meniscus of the knee, also known as the cartilage, is an important structure of the knee that provides cushioning and weight distribution across the joint. Unfortunately, it is easily injured or torn especially in the middle aged to older individual and often with relatively little provocation. Simply twisting while getting out of a chair or squatting down to line up a putt can lead to a torn meniscus.
Symptoms of a torn meniscus include pain at the joint line with running or walking long distances, popping when climbing stairs, a giving way sensation, locking, or swelling. Often the pain radiates down the calf muscles or up the back of the thigh. The character of the pain is often sharp or stabbing rather than dull, achy. It can occur constantly or only occasionally.
Treatment depends upon the severity, location, and underlying disease of the knee joint, but generally it is accepted that once torn the meniscus cannot heal back to normal. Initially, a torn meniscus can be treated with rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE) and by preventing bending of the knee with an immobilizing brace. This may be helpful in alleviating the inflammation within the joint that first occurs with a torn meniscus. Anti-inflammatory medications may help to relieve pain and swelling. Many patients choose this conservative or nonsurgical treatment before considering having the problem definitively treated and try to live with the injury.
The majority of patients will find that since a torn meniscus cannot heal and the pain and intermittent instability will continue indefinitely, it is better to have the problem fixed. Surgery is the best method of effecting a torn meniscus repair. Typically torn meniscus surgery involves an outpatient procedure done with a small camera that can look into the knee through a small opening to find the torn meniscus and repair it. This procedure is called an arthroscopic meniscectomy and is one of the most commonly performed orthopedic procedures.
Torn Meniscus RepairÂ and Recovery
Torn meniscus recovery time is typically short with patients returning to sedentary work within days and sports within a few weeks. The rehabilitation process balances swelling and healing. The goal is to return range of motion to the knee as soon as possible. Physical therapy is a common part of rehabilitation, and most therapists work with the orthopedic surgeon to return the patient to full function as soon as possible.
If you have more questions or would like to discuss torn meniscus surgery.