Meniscus Tears

meniscus tears causing knee pain

When to Consult an Orthopedic Knee Surgeon

If you watch sports like basketball, football, or gymnastics then you may have heard the term meniscus mentioned once or twice. The meniscus is a band of cartilage that goes around the knee joint and cushions the area where the femur (thigh bone) and the tibia (shinbone) meet. It consists of two parts: the lateral meniscus (outer) and the medial meniscus (inner). As you’ve probably gathered, the meniscus plays a critical role in daily activities such as walking, bending at the knee, ascending stairs, as well as all variety of athletic activity.

What is a Meniscus Tear? How Are They Caused?

A meniscus tear is the sudden ripping of either the lateral or medial meniscus. A torn meniscus is usually caused from physical activity that puts intense duress on the knee. Some examples of that would be a forceful twist, sudden rotation, or hard pivot. Although it is less common, a deep squatting motion can also tear the meniscus, especially if you’re handling something heavy like weights on a barbell.

Meniscus tears are one of the most common forms of knee injuries. They are generally incurred by people who are engaging in athletic activity, especially those who are in contact/high-impact sports such as football or basketball. Additionally, older individuals are susceptible to meniscus tears as knee cartilage breaks down and becomes more fragile. Meniscus tears can also occur in obese individuals who are putting constant stress on the knee.

What Are the Symptoms of a Meniscus Tear?

Meniscus tears are sudden and generally happen during physical activity. Depending on the severity of the tear, you may experience one or more of the following symptoms:

  • A popping sensation that occurs while twisting, rotating, or pivoting with the knee
  • Stiffness and swelling of the knee
  • Inability to straighten the knee
  • Knee weakness, inability to put weight on it
  • Locked knee, inability to move it normally
  • Pain (increases when rotating or twisting the knee)

What Are the Treatment Options for a Torn Meniscus?

Treatment for a meniscus tear is all dependent on the severity of the injury. Most orthopedic doctors near you will tell you that an extended period of rest and recovery are the best avenue to take, especially with smaller tears. For most meniscus tears, the following combination of at-home treatment methods may be used.

  • Rest: Those with a meniscus tear should try to go at least a few days without putting any pressure on the knee.
  • Ice: Should be applied in 15-minute intervals to help with swelling.
  • Compression: Further helps with swelling issues by wrapping the knee in a brace or elastic bandage.
  • Elevation: Either lie down or sit with your knee elevated above your heart to achieve ideal blood flow.
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): To help relieve pain, take aspirin, naproxen, or ibuprofen as directed.

For more severe tears, your orthopedic doctor may suggest one or more of the following treatment methods.

  • Prescription pain medications: In cases of severe pain, prescription pain medications may be used on a short-term basis.
  • Corticosteroid injections: These will be administered by your orthopedic doctor in the event your swelling doesn’t go down with ice, compression, and rest.
  • Orthotics: If an over-the-counter knee brace doesn’t work, your orthopedic doctor may recommend a special knee brace that more effectively stabilizes your knee and limits joint movement.
  • Physical therapy: Towards the end of your healing process, your orthopedic doctor will recommend that you begin seeing a physical therapist to strengthen the muscles surrounding your knee and reacclimate you to putting weight on it again.

When to See an Orthopedic Knee Surgeon

In the event that none of the aforementioned treatment methods improve your condition, your orthopedic doctor may recommend surgery. At that point, they would refer you over to an orthopedic knee surgeon. However, it should be known that surgeries such as arthroscopic knee surgery and knee joint replacement are used as a last resort. Only in rare cases does a meniscus tear require surgery.

Contact an Orthopedic Knee Doctor Near You

If you feel that you have suffered a meniscus tear, the best course of action is set up an appointment with an orthopedic doctor. After gathering your medical history, they will be able to examine your knee and provide you with an official diagnosis of the area. Once you know the severity of your injury, your orthopedic doctor can then put you on a comprehensive treatment plan that’s specific to you.

If you are suffering from knee pain, there’s no need to wait. Call us today at (316) 630-9300 to set up an appointment or use the button below.