The meniscus is a C-shaped cartilage around the knee that separates the shinbone from the thighbone. Cartilage is a smooth tissue that helps keeps bone from rubbing against another bone. Bones rubbing neighboring bones leads to arthritis and other painful joint conditions.
A torn meniscus is a very common sports injury, as it is caused when someone twists on their knee with so much stress the cartilage is torn. It is commonly recognized by the popping sound it produces and the immediate pain that is the result.
A torn meniscus is quite painful and restricts movement of the knee anywhere from a bit to a major amount. Often it is difficult or impossible to straighten the knee with a torn meniscus. Other symptoms, while they may be self-explanatory, include:
- Swelling and redness
- Stabbing pain in the knee, especially during movement
- Difficulty straightening the knee
- Having difficulty moving the kneed to the extent it feels locked in place
Immediate treatment includes taking the weight off the afflicted knee, wrapping it to prevent movement and using crutches or a wheelchair if these are available. Seek medical treatment as soon as possible.
The diagnosis cannot be confirmed with an X-ray, because cartilage is not dense enough tissue to show up on X-rays. However, X-rays can rule out bone trauma and, therefore, could help narrow down the diagnosis.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can present an image of both hard (bone) tissue and soft (cartilage), which allows it to return images of your meniscus.
The third technique for diagnosing a torn meniscus is the use of an arthroscope, which is a small camera with a light that is inserted into your knee. While exploring the knee, doctors could also move ahead with surgical procedures to repair the meniscus or remove damaged tissue.
Treatment of a torn meniscus usually starts with the basic approach of rest, ice and medication. It often means taking a break from physical activities for a while.
Rest could entail the use of bandaging or braces to stabilize the knee while it heals. It may be wise to use crutches or a wheelchair to give the knee complete rest.
Ice is used to reduce swelling and help with the pain. Ice is best used for 15-30 minutes with the knee in an elevated position.
Over-the-counter, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication is often used. If the pain is severe, you can discuss with your physician use of more powerful medication.
Physical therapists can work wonders with cartilage damage. This is useful when you heal enough to begin activities again in a manner that does not re-injure the meniscus.
There are two strategies for surgery. Physicians first try to repair the meniscus. If this is not possible, surgeons will remove damaged tissue to allow the functioning cartilage to do its job unimpeded by irreparable tissue.
A torn meniscus may require medical intervention to stabilize and repair the damage. In Tempe, call FXRX at 480-449-3979 to make an appointment with a specialist who has extensive experience with this injury.