Meniscal tears are among the most common knee injury and are typical across all age groups. The meniscus are two wedge-shaped pieces of cartilage that act as “shock absorbers” between your thighbone and shinbone.
Acute meniscal tears often happen during sports. The injury may happen during a squatting or twisting motion, or due to direct contact, like a tackle in football. As you get older, you’re more likely to have degenerative meniscal tears, caused by weakening of the cartilage over time. Frequently, patients are unable to describe a specific injury that caused the knee pain.
The most common symptom of a meniscal tear is pain. Other symptoms include stiffness and swelling, catching or locking, and the sensation of the knee “giving way.”
Unfortunately, meniscal tears are unable to heal on their own. However, that does not mean a meniscal tear will always cause symptoms. Activity modification and anti-inflammatory medication can help limit the symptoms. It is not dangerous or harmful to live with a meniscal tear.
Surgical treatment in the form of a knee arthroscopy is frequently used to treat a meniscal tear if the symptoms persist. A small camera is inserted through a small incision to treat the tear. Depending on the severity and location of the tear, the meniscal tissue may or may not be preserved. The surgery is performed on an outpatient basis—you will be able to return home the same day as surgery. After the surgery, you will be able to put full weight on your leg and begin exercises to restore full range of motion and strength. Physical therapy is occasionally necessary to restore full knee function.