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Are You Suffering From a Torn Meniscus?


One of the most common knee injuries is a torn meniscus. Each of your knees has two menisci: C-shaped pieces of cartilage that act like a cushion between your shinbone (tibia) and your thighbone (femor).  A torn meniscus happens when an activity has caused you to forcefully twist or rotate your knee, especially when putting the pressure of your full weight on it.


What does a Meniscus tear feel like?

At first, the pain may not be bad. You might even play through the injury. But once the inflammation sets in, your knee will probably hurt quite a bit.

Symptoms of a meniscus tear include:

  • Pain in the knee

  • Swelling

  • A popping sensation during the injury

  • Difficulty bending and straightening the leg

  • A tendency for your knee to get “stuck” or lock up


How Can I Make My Knee Feel Better?

Treatment for meniscal tears depends on the size and location of the tear. The outer portion of the meniscus, often referred to as the “red zone,” has a good blood supply and can sometimes heal on its own if the tear is small. In contrast, the inner two thirds of the meniscus, known as the “white zone,” do not have a good blood supply. Tears in this region will not heal on their own as this area lacks blood vessels to bring in healing nutrients.

The good news is that not all meniscal tears require surgery. If your knee is not locking up, seems stable, and symptoms resolve themselves, nonsurgical treatment may suffice.

How can I speed the recovery of meniscal pain?

  • Rest the knee. Limit activities to just walking if the knee is painful. Use crutches to help relieve pain.

  • Ice your knee to reduce pain and swelling. Do it for 15-20 minutes every 3-4 hours for 2-3 days or until the pain and swelling is gone.

  • Compress your knee. Use an elastic bandage or a neoprene type sleeve on your knee to control swelling.

  • Elevate your knee with a pillow under your heel when you’re sitting or lying down.

  • Take anti-inflammatory medications. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs will help with pain and swelling. However, these drugs can have side effects, such as an increased risk of bleeding and ulcers.

  • Use stretching and strengthening exercises to help reduce stress to your knee. Ask your doctor to recommend a physical therapist for guidance.

  • Avoid impact activities such as running and jumping.

  • Physical therapy can help strengthen the muscles around your knee and in your legs to help stabilize and support the knee joint.

  • Arch supports or other shoe inserts can help to distribute force more evenly around your knee, or decrease stress on certain areas of your knee.

Sometimes these treatments aren’t always enough. If a tear is large, unstable, or causing locking symptoms, surgery may be required to either repair or remove unstable edges. The procedure is usually pretty simple, and you can often go home the same day. You may need a brace afterward for protection if a repair is performed.


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