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Metro Health

Knee

Meniscus Tear

One of the most commonly injured parts of the knee, the meniscus is a wedge-like rubbery cushion where the major bones of your leg connect. Meniscal cartilage curves like the letter “C” at the inside and outside of each knee. A strong stabilizing tissue, the meniscus helps the knee joint carry weight, glide and turn in many directions. It also keeps your femur (thighbone) and tibia (shinbone) from grinding against each other. Football players and others in contact sports may tear the meniscus by twisting the knee, pivoting, cutting or decelerating.

Signs and Symptoms
You might experience a “popping” sensation when you tear the meniscus. Most people can still walk on the injured knee and many athletes keep playing. When symptoms of inflammation set in, your knee feels painful and tight.

Without treatment, a fragment of the meniscus may loosen and drift into the joint, causing it to slip, pop or lock–your knee gets stuck until you manually move or otherwise manipulate it. If you think you have a meniscal tear, see your doctor right away for diagnosis and individualized treatment.

Diagnosis
You may need X-rays to rule out osteoarthritis or other possible causes of your knee pain. Sometimes your doctor may use a magnetic resonance imaging scan to get a better look at the soft tissues of your knee joint.

Conservative Treatment
Initial treatment of a meniscal tear follows the basic RICE formula: rest, ice, compression and elevation, combined with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications for pain. Physical therapy may also be indicated. If your knee is stable and does not lock, this conservative treatment may be all you need.

Initial treatment of a meniscal tear follows the basic RICE formula: rest, ice, compression and elevation, combined with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications for pain. Physical therapy may also be indicated. If your knee is stable and does not lock, this conservative treatment may be all you need.

Surgical Repair
If your meniscal tear does not heal on its own and your knee becomes painful, stiff or locked, you may need surgical repair. Depending upon the type of tear, your age and other factors, your doctor may use an arthroscope to repair or trim off damaged pieces of cartilage.

A brace may be needed after your surgery and you may need to complete a course of rehabilitation exercises before gradually resuming your activity.

 

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