Walking, bending, standing, running, playing sports. Your knees experience a lot of strain throughout your life, so it’s no wonder that knee injuries are one of the most common injuries. And meniscal tears are among those knee injuries that Dr. Dominique Nickson sees most often at Next Step Orthopedics.
Meniscal tears are usually seen in athletes, but they can occur in patients of a variety of ages and lifestyles. They can be caused by any activity that requires you to turn quickly at the knee when your foot is planted, such as soccer. Even turning around quickly can cause minor tears in your knees. A meniscus injury also can develop gradually through wear and tear.
What is the meniscus?
You have two menisci in each knee, that act as shock absorbers to cushion the joint and lower legs from the weight of your body during activities. The menisci are crescent-shaped connective tissue discs located between the knee joints that work in coordination with the knee’s cartilage. When the knee twists in an unnatural motion, the meniscus can tear.
Meniscus tear symptoms
During the initial injury, you may feel a pop and some pain, although it may be slight. You may even be able to continue walking on your knee for the first couple of days before it becomes stiff and swollen. Watch for these symptoms if you think you have torn your meniscus:
- Locking or catching
- Reduced range of motion
- Feeling as though your knee may give out
- Poor stability
If you experience any of these, make an appointment immediately for proper diagnosis and treatment. Without it, pieces of your meniscus could come loose and drift into your knee joint, causing it to slip, lock, or pop.
Types of meniscus tears
There are several different types of tears, with varying degrees of severity. Here are a few of the most common types of meniscal tears:
- Intrasubstance tears are commonly discovered via an MRI and are often a sign of early degenerative changes in the meniscus tissue due to age or wear.
- Horizontal tears cut across the meniscus and may be able to be sewn back together easily depending on their location.
- Radial tears are the most common type and are less likely to heal due to their location.
- Flap tears are unusual but typically cause the knee to catch when bending.
- Complex tears occur when there is a combination of injuries resulting from tears, often radial and horizontal.
Treating meniscus tears
Minor meniscal tears often respond well to rest, ice, and medications, as long as the tear has time to heal on its own. For more severe injuries, Dr. Nickson may prescribe a more intensive treatment plan. Each patient’s injuries are different, so your treatment plan depends on the severity of the damage, your medical history, and your preferences.
Typical treatment options include physical therapy and rehabilitation, medication, and surgery. After your diagnosis, Dr. Nickson explains in detail the risks and benefits of your options to help you make the most informed decision moving forward. If possible, he will try to prescribe a treatment that doesn’t require surgery. If surgery is necessary, you’re in good hands: Dr. Nickson performs arthroscopic surgery to address meniscus tears.