As knee pain specialists, we see plenty of meniscus tears at 360 Orthopedics. These cartilage cushions in the knees are one of the most common places for a knee injury to occur. Depending on the severity of your injury, some rest and conservative care may be all you need to heal. In other cases though, surgical intervention may be needed.
When is surgery your best option for a meniscus tear? Fortunately, it’s not usually a decision you need to make under pressure at the time of injury. Treatment usually starts with conservative care and moves on only when you fail to experience substantial relief and overall improvement.
Anatomy of the knee
Each knee has two pieces of C-shaped cartilage that sit between the bones of your thigh and shin, behind the kneecap. These menisci are wedge-shaped and act as a transition for loads transferred from your feet to your body, as well as helping to keep the knee joint stable.
Damaging a meniscus
There are two ways that meniscus tissue becomes torn. Trauma injuries typically stem from twisting motions of the knee while it’s under maximum load, such as working under exertion or heavy lifting. Meniscus tears are also common sports injuries. Often, a popping sound or sensation accompanies the injury.
Meniscus cartilage can also suffer from degenerative wear and tear, commonly called osteoarthritis. Rather than a sudden, sharp injury, degenerative tears appear more as fraying along the thin edge of an affected meniscus.
Home care for meniscus tears
Unless there’s reason to suspect severe damage in the knee, treatment usually starts with conservative care, unless your knee is very painful and prone to locking up. Usually, care starts with rest. Avoid not only the activity or job you were doing at the time of the injury, but any other movement or weight bearing that causes discomfort or pain. Resting with your weight off the injured knee is usually a good idea in the early stages after knee pain flares up.
Use a cold pack in 15-minute bursts every four to six hours in the first two days and then as needed after that. The cold pack helps to minimize inflammation of the knee while also reducing pain related to swelling. Over-the-counter pain relievers can keep you comfortable, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen and naproxen help to reduce swelling as well.
With home care, you should begin to feel improvements in mobility and visible inflammation while pain starts to ease. If there’s no improvement in pain or your knee continues to lock, it’s time to visit us at 360 Orthopedics.
Surgery for meniscus tears
The first step toward surgery requires an accurate diagnosis of your condition. This could include imaging tests like X-rays and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans as well as a review of your symptoms and an exam to evaluate knee function. We may recommend physical therapy at this point, before recommending surgery.
Arthroscopy is a powerful diagnostic tool that allows our surgeons a view of meniscus damage through a camera that requires only a small incision near the knee. They can also repair some damage through this or another small keyhole incision using tools designed for this application. In some cases, repairs are done at the time of diagnosis. Arthroscopic surgery is usually easy to recover from since it damages little healthy tissue around the knee.
The specifics of your case depend on your injury and the level of damage. With three locations in Sarasota, Venice, and Lakewood Ranch, Florida, 360 Orthopedics is conveniently located to help you. Call or click to schedule your consultation today.