August 18, 2021

The Symptoms Of A Torn Meniscus & How They Can Be Treated - Symptoms, Treatment & When Surgery Required

Texas Health Center for Diagnostics and Surgery

Meniscus tears are one of the most common cartilage injuries that can affect your knee. Causing pain, swelling, discomfort, and potentially preventing you from walking properly, they can be a serious short and long-term issue. But just what is the meniscus?

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The meniscus: your knee’s hidden cushion

The meniscus is a rubbery disc made of cartilage that sits at the intersection of three key bones in your leg — the kneecap, the thigh bone, and the shinbone. The meniscus helps act as a shock absorber for these bones as you carry out everyday activities and also helps evenly distribute weight and pressure across your knee. So when it’s injured as a result of a tear, it can have serious consequences for your mobility. 

Can a meniscus tear get worse over time? Absolutely, if it’s not treated. Ensuring you get the proper treatment as soon as possible is essential — overuse or continuing to push yourself can turn minor injuries into serious ones. 

Symptoms of a torn meniscus

Some of the most common symptoms include:

  • Limping
  • Knee joint pain
  • Swelling
  • Locking within the knee joint
  • An inability to properly extend or fully bend your knee joint

The causes of meniscus injuries

One of the most insidious qualities of meniscus tears is that they can occur just about anytime and anywhere. Even taking a step the wrong way can result in a tear if you’re not careful. Additionally, like any other cartilage, the meniscus can also wear down with age. This can make you more prone to injury or increase the likelihood of minor injuries becoming more serious ones. 

However, there are situations that can place you at increased risk. Having your feet planted while you turn the rest of your leg is one of the most common causes, so it won’t come as a surprise to learn that contact sports or other athletic activities like tennis, basketball, soccer, and more can leave you at risk of having a tear occur. 

Although it’s not necessary to entirely avoid these activities, it’s important to be conscious of the risk involved and take precautions appropriately. If you think you may have experienced a meniscus tear, it’s important to see your doctor as soon as possible to get the issue diagnosed and treated. 

Does a meniscus tear need surgery?

The good news is that not all meniscus tears need surgery; many are very minor and can heal on their own. Usually, it’s just recommended that you avoid strenuous physical activity for two to three weeks to prevent the injury from becoming worse. The same for moderate tears; though these can cause swelling and discomfort, this will usually subside within a couple of days. After that, you should just make sure that you’re relaxing appropriately to ensure that it doesn’t flare up again. 

So, when does a meniscus tear require surgery? Generally, it’s required to treat severe tears — this will usually be when mobility has been seriously impacted or scans reveal that the meniscus has been seriously damaged. An orthopedic surgeon will be able to provide more information on whether the meniscus requires surgery.  

Meniscus surgery at Texas Health Center for Diagnostics & Surgery

At Texas Health Center for Diagnostics & Surgery, we’re highly equipped to carry out a range of surgeries for knee injuries including meniscus tears. So if you think you may be in need of surgery or have been referred by your doctor, get in touch with the team today. We’ll be more than happy to discuss your options and help connect you with an orthopedic surgeon on our medical staff.