The meniscus is a large piece of cartilage that is located in the knee. The main purpose of the meniscus is to cushion the joint where the shin and thigh bones connect. There are two of these protective pieces of cartilage in every knee. While the meniscus is able to absorb and withstand a lot of force, it can still easily get damaged. The most common injury to this area of the knee is a torn meniscus.
A torn meniscus is an extremely common knee injury that occurs when the knee joint is vigorously rotated. This over-rotation commonly occurs when playing sports, but it can also happen when lifting an extremely heavy object. Older individuals can tear their meniscus while performing regular activities because of the degenerative condition of their knee after years of normal wear and tear.
The signs and symptoms of a torn meniscus are easily spotted, especially if you are performing a rigorous activity when the injury happens. There will be a very loud pop when the meniscus is initially torn. The popping sound will be followed by pain, swelling, and stiffness in the knee. These symptoms will get worse when attempting to rotate or twist the knee. You will also likely have a tough time completely straightening your leg. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms after a knee injury, then is time to get checked out by a medical professional.
The doctor will have to diagnose your torn meniscus before starting treatment. This can usually be done with a physical exam of the knee. An MRI will be used to see the severity of the cartilage damage. While an X-ray cannot show damage to cartilage, it may also be done to eliminate any other possible knee injuries. If you can still easily move your knee, then rehabilitation therapy will be used first to treat your torn meniscus.
The first thing you must do in order for your knee to heal is avoid any strenuous activities. You will also want to ice the knee at least twice a day. Once the swelling and pain in the knee has subsided, you will start physical therapy.
If physical therapy is unhelpful or you have a serious tear of the meniscus, then surgery will be your best treatment option. Once you are completely healed, your knee will feel exactly like it did before the injury. There will be absolutely no limitations on your movements and activities.