One of the most common knee injuries is a meniscus tear. When people reference having torn cartilage in their knee, they usually are referring to a meniscus tear.
To better understand a meniscus tear, it is important to understand the anatomy of the knee. The knee is made up of three main bones that come together: the shinbone (tibia), the thigh bone (femur) and the kneecap (the patella). The meniscus is cartilage between the thighbone and the shinbone that helps act as a shock absorber between the two bones.
Types of Meniscus Tears
- Complex and mixed tear
- Flap tear
- Parrot break
- Bucket handle tear
Cause of a Meniscus Tear
If the injury is sports related, this damage can occur if someone is squatting and twisting the knee at the same time or perhaps during a tackle with direct contact. If a meniscus tear occurs during a sports injury, it is most common that other knee injuries occurred as well, such as a tear in the anterior cruciate ligament.
A meniscus tear can also be age related; as we get older, the meniscus can become degenerated and thinned over time. All it can take is a slight twist when getting up from a chair to cause a tear.
Symptoms of a Meniscus Tear
Oftentimes, a popping noise occurs when the meniscus tears. Because you can still walk after the tear occurs, an athlete may continue playing his game or practice. But around 2-3 days later, the knee will become swollen and stiff and much more painful.
- Stiffness, swelling, pain
- A sensation of your knee “giving way”
- Sensitivity and pain to the touch
- Your knee locking
- The range of motion in the knee is very limited
It is very important to get treatment as soon as possible. The reason being is that a loose piece of meniscus can drift into the joint and cause further complications with the knee locking.
Depending on the location and severity of the tear you may not to have surgery. If the tear is on the outer edge of the meniscus, surgery may not be necessary. In this case, the RICE method is a pretty standard protocol. It stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation.
Surgical Treatment of Meniscus Tear
- Meniscectomy: This procedure involves trimming away the damaged tissue of the meniscus.
- Meniscus Repair: This procedure involves stitching the torn pieces of meniscus together and securing them with sutures. This recovery time is usually much longer
Rehab & Recovery For Meniscus Tear
If surgery is used, your knee may have to be put in a cast or a brace to promote stability. Furthermore, crutches should be used for the next month in order to keep weight off the knee.
After the first portion f healing is complete, rehabilitation is a necessary part of the complete healing process. Both strength training and range of motion exercises will be necessary gain complete recovery.
The time for full recovery of a meniscus tear surgery usually averages about 3 months. The recovery time for a meniscectomy is usually about 1 month.
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