How to Tell If Your Knee Pain is a Meniscus Tear

Posted on Sep 3, 2019, by

A meniscus tear can happen to anyone.

In fact, a meniscus tear is one of the most common and easily treated orthopedic injuries. Our expert surgical team at the Kennedy Center is skilled in this repair.  Read on to learn more about meniscus tears and repairs.

What exactly is the meniscus?

The meniscus is cartilage that cushions the space in your knee, acting as a shock absorber, lubricating the knee joint and balancing weight evenly across the knee. 

When a meniscus is torn, you may experience:

  • A popping sensation
  • Swelling 
  • Stiffness
  • Knee pain, especially when rotating your knee
  • Difficulty walking or bending your knee
  • Limited range of motion

What causes a meniscus to tear?

There are many ways a meniscus can tear or wear out. Activities that require fast twisting of the knee or contact sports can cause a meniscus tear. Experiencing a hard tackle on the football field or a fast pivot on the tennis court could cause a tear.

However, it’s not always those extreme activities that cause the injury. Simply squatting, lifting, walking or standing up too quickly can tear the meniscus. The cartilage can also wear down as we age, making a tear during routine activities even more likely.

What happens during a meniscus repair?

Many small tears can heal with the following treatment: rest, ice, compression and elevation, also known as RICE. However, if you find that following the RICE method doesn’t relieve the pain or swelling, you should call an orthopedic surgeon.

If a doctor finds that your meniscus is torn, a knee scope to repair the torn cartilage is usually recommended. Recovery typically doesn’t take more than a few weeks, allowing patients to get back to their usual routines shortly after the procedure. 

Most often, a meniscus repair is done arthroscopically. This is commonly referred to as a knee scope. That means, a small incision, around two to three inches, is made on the side of the knee.  The surgeon then inserts a small camera, a lighted scope and specially designed instruments to make the repair. To fix the tear, small stitches are made in the cartilage to sew it back together. 

How long does meniscus repair recovery take?

Because the incision is small and the repair is relatively simple, most patients recover in a week or two.

The RICE method is important for the first few days after surgery. Your knee will probably be a little swollen for a couple of days, but following the RICE steps will help with that. In addition, you may be a little more tired than usual. After just a couple of days, you will see improvement in both the swelling and energy levels. 

If the knee is not feeling better after several days of rest, it is important to contact your doctor.

Will I be in a lot of pain after meniscus surgery?

Because most meniscus repairs are done with a scope, pain after meniscus surgery is usually minimal. If your pain level continues or goes up, or swelling persists after several days, please contact your doctor.

How soon can I go back to work?

Because a meniscus repair is minimally invasive, most people are able to return to work within a week or two. However, be sure to follow your doctor’s restrictions and listen to your body, especially if your job requires a lot of physical activity like lifting or standing for extended periods. 

Simple procedure with big results.

Meniscus repair is one of the most common orthopedic surgeries and one of the most successfully treated.. Recovery is relatively simple and you will be feeling back to your old self in no time.

Our team at The Kennedy Center are experts in meniscus tears, making a quicker and more comfortable recovery possible. Contact us today to learn more about this procedure and results.




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