Are Your Menisci In Trouble?

The average person takes 4,000 steps a day. Others, like high-performance athletes, rack up hundreds of miles each month. To make those steps happen, the knee must work at full capacity. The knee is a joint made up of 3 bones and several ligaments. Supporting those bones and ligaments is the meniscus, twin discs of cartilage that sit on top of the shin bone. Unfortunately, the cartilage is prone to injury, called a meniscal tear. This is a troublesome injury and often requires surgery.

minnesota valley surgery center 3 Signs Of A Meniscal Tear: When Do I Need Knee Repair Surgery?

Here’s why it’s torn

The meniscus has an important role. With every step, the knee is subjected to significant force. The meniscus distributes the force, pressure, and supports bodyweight. Should the meniscus tear or become damaged in any way, movement can be painful. Most meniscus tears happen during sports or physical activity. If the knee twists or receives a blow, the meniscus can rupture. Cartilage can also wear down over time, making older persons more prone to tears. Identifying a meniscus tear or general knee pain can be difficult. These 3 signs may be able to help.

1. That’s just swell!

A meniscus tear can happen suddenly due to injury or gradually due to wear and tear. Whatever the cause, the knee will feel painful. The pain is often focused on the inner or outer part of the knee. Soon after the injury, the knee begins to swell with a clear difference from the other knee. The pain and swelling may not subside without treatment.

2. No longer mobile

Another clear sign of a meniscus tear is a general lack of movement. The injured person will be unable to walk or apply pressure on the knee without pain. The knee becomes difficult to move, and the person may even be unable to stand without assistance. A lack of mobility is a clear sign that medical help is needed.

3. All locked up

A meniscus tear could prevent the knee from bending or extending without pain. In some cases, the cartilage can get caught between the shin and thigh bones. This can cause the knee to lock in place. Some persons also feel a clicking or popping sensation when trying to move the knee.

Is surgery always necessary?

Like most cartilage, menisci have minimal blood flow, which is vital for any part of the body to heal naturally. The meniscus has a crescent shape, with the outer region containing a higher blood supply than the inner area. That means the type of tear will determine if surgery is necessary. For instance, incomplete tears are common and happen in the outer region and may not need surgery. These tears respond well to physical therapy, the RICE method, and medication. On the other hand, radial tears, flap tears, and complex tears affect the inner region. Almost always, these tears require surgical intervention.

Stopping meniscus pain in its tracks

After a doctor confirms a severe, complex tear, the patient should get surgery as soon as possible. Meniscus surgery happens through minimally invasive techniques. The orthopedic surgeon will use small incisions around the knee to insert a camera and surgical tools. Some tears, like a horizontal tear, can be repaired with stitches. These sutures will help the meniscus to heal effectively. For more complex tears, the surgeon will remove parts of the cartilage and smooth out any rough parts. After surgery, the patient will undergo extensive physical therapy. Knee repair surgery, along with therapy, has excellent outcomes.

Don’t ignore the signs

The meniscus plays a crucial role in the knee’s mobility and stability. Anyone who has experienced a meniscus tear before can attest to how painful the injury can be. The 3 signs mentioned can help to determine if the meniscus was indeed damaged. Nevertheless, seek medical help immediately. A healthcare provider can assess the damage and develop the right course of action.

More Articles from MVSC