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Torn Meniscus: Working Through the Treatment Options

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March 20, 2013

As moms we play hard, participate in sports, and are generally pretty active! We know how to take care of our children when they suffer injuries, but what about ourselves? A torn meniscus is a common injury. Here we will discuss what to do if you recently hurt your knee and/or experience these symptoms:

  • Swelling
  • Pain and sensitivity to touch
  • Feeling your knee is going to buckle on you
  • Movement of the knee is difficult, possibly without full range of motion

If you’ve experienced the above, chances are you have a torn meniscus.

What’s a Meniscus?

Your knees each have 2 menisci. They are C-shaped pieces of cartilage; they work as a cushion between shinbone and thighbone. They can be torn during any activity that causes a forceful twist or rotation on your knee. Sports and lifting heavy weights from a squatting position are common causes. Your risk of tearing a meniscus increases with age because of decreased blood flow in the area and the wear the aging process causes.

Torn Meniscus Treatment

Treatment can be conservative with the R.I.C.E method:

  • Rest your knee. Avoid bearing weight on the leg, use crutches.
  • Ice your knee for 30 minutes every 3 – 4 hours.
  • Compress/wrap the affected knee with an elastic bandage. It helps reduce inflammation.
  • Elevate your knee, it helps reduce swelling.

Additionally, you can take over the counter anti-inflammatory medications such as Ibuprofen or aspirin. Your doctor may order a round of physical therapy. Therapy can strengthen the muscles around the knee, which increases mobility as well as stability. This in turn can lessen the pain.

Do You Need Surgery?

Not all torn meniscus need to be repaired with surgery. But, if your knee doesn’t respond after conservative treatment, diagnostic tests will be done. These can include:

  • X-rays. They can’t identify a torn meniscus because it is cartilage and not bone. X-rays can aid in ruling out other problems such as arthritis or fractures.
  • Ultrasound. Lets your doctor examine the inside of the knee in motion. This helps your doctor determine if a loose piece of cartilage is getting caught between the moving parts of the knee.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The diagnostic test of choice. It provides detailed images of internal structures of both hard and soft tissue, thus your doctor know ahead of time how to plan any potential surgery.

Surgery may be the last option. It is typically an arthroscopic surgery, done on an outpatient basis, so you go home the same day. A small incision is made, and a tool called an arthroscope is inserted to trim and repair the damage. Recovery requires some work on the part of the patient, but the with physical therapy and determination to follow the exercise program your therapist provides, the outlook is excellent, and the knee should be functioning normally in about six weeks.

To avoid a meniscus tear, wear the proper type of shoes for your activity, do warm-up stretches, wear a brace for extra support if needed and keep doing the exercises you learned in physical therapy to keep the muscles strong so your knee is supported.

All of this isn’t easy, and it can be considered time-consuming, but it will help you regain knee functionality and mobility – without pain.

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