The knees contain cartilage known as the meniscus, which is prone to tearing. A meniscus tear is very common. When it comes to knee injuries, a meniscus tear is a prominent one. The meniscus rests between the tibia and femur. It gives the bone cushion. It is like a shock absorber for the knees. The knees take a lot of pressure. It is because of cartilage that your knee doesn’t give out. Meniscus tears happen when you twist your knee in the wrong way. There is not just one meniscus but two, but two. If you tear any part of it, treatment is necessary.
The knee is a joint made of many different structures: cartilage, bone, tendons, and ligaments. Muscles surround the knee as well. There are different types of cartilage in the knee. You are probably only familiar with the meniscus. When you hear about cartilage injuries, it is usually a meniscus injury. What you probably didn’t know is the meniscus is divided into the medial meniscus and the lateral meniscus. They are C-shaped pieces of tissue that sit on the tibia but keeps the femur and patella bone from rubbing against the tibia bone. The medial meniscus is larger than the lateral meniscus, but they both do the same job.
Meniscus tears can happen in two different ways. The tear can be a result of the meniscus ripping vertically or horizontally. When the meniscus rips vertically, it pulls apart leaving a cut in the cartilage. A horizontal rip in the cartilage leaves a clean cut along the edge of the cartilage. A horizontal tear is known as a bucket handle tear because the meniscus looks almost like a bucket handle after it rips. When you tear the meniscus, you feel a lot of pain. The knee will also swell. If the meniscus has a bucket tear, you will probably hear a popping sound.
Bending your knee is nearly impossible. Your knee may also lock up. If your knee locks up, pieces of the torn cartilage may be stuck in the joint.
A meniscus tear may not be noticeable initially, but once the swelling begins, you will need treatment. Diagnosis is made during an examination. The doctor may be sure it is a meniscus tear, but they may still order an X-ray or MRI. The imaging tests cancel out other tears as well as broken bones. Treatment for meniscal tears is dependent on different things, including:
- Size of the tear
- Location of the tear
- Other injuries endured
- Activity level
Once all these things are taken into consideration, the best treatment can be made.
Some meniscus tears do not require treatment at all. Certain areas of the meniscus have a strong blood supply. The blood allows the meniscus to heal on its own. A tear in the inner portion of the meniscus requires treatment because there is not enough blood to allow it to heal on its own. When dealing with outer meniscus injuries, treatment involves rest, ice, and medication. It is also good to wrap your knee to keep the swelling down. Light stretching is also helpful. For larger tears or tears of the inner part of the meniscus, surgery is required. Surgery repairs the tear. Meniscus surgery is outpatient surgery that allows you to go home the same day. After surgery, you must wear a brace. Eventually, you will have to do therapy as well to strengthen the meniscus. Prognosis of knee injuries is great in the beginning, but as you get older, your knee is susceptible to arthritis.
During recovery, you should take your time. Do not rush back into physical activity. The worst thing you can do is rush and end up tearing your meniscus over again. If you still have a lot of pain and swelling, you are not ready to return to any physical activity. When the pain and swelling are gone, you have reached a full recovery. You should test out your leg by doing some light activity. If you still have a some pain, don’t over do it. Be very careful. Once you have healed, it is important to strengthen your leg. One tear can lead to more tears. You don’t want to keep tearing the meniscus. Recovery takes too much time. The best way to avoid tears in the future is to stretch before working out. Staying flexible prevents tears not only in the meniscus but also other ligaments.
Meniscus tears are very common but avoidable. Sometimes stretching is not our favorite thing to do but by stretching, you can protect yourself from all kinds of tears. No matter where you tear your meniscus, it is painful. Recovery may last up to six weeks. If surgery is required, recovery is longer. If you have a meniscus tear, do not make it worse by trying to work through it. The best thing you can do is find a doctor to treat you. Take time to rest so you can have a complete recovery.
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