If you’ve experienced a popping sound and discomfort while performing an activity, it may indicate a potential meniscus tear. The meniscus is a crucial part of the knee joint that acts as a shock absorber between the thigh and shin bones. It also helps maintain knee stability by balancing weight distribution.
Meniscus tears usually result from degeneration over time or from participating in high-impact sports or activities. It’s essential to take any popping or pain in the knee seriously and seek medical attention promptly to prevent further damage. Studies show that though it is a common injury, leaving it unchecked might hinder your daily activities and lead to severe conditions.
For a precise diagnosis and effective treatment of a meniscus tear, it’s advisable to consult with a healthcare professional. It can help prevent the worsening of symptoms and reduce the likelihood of future surgeries. Keep reading to learn more about the available treatment options that can effectively address meniscus tears.
Causes of Meniscus Tears
Meniscus tear can happen when the knee experiences sudden pressure while the foot is strongly planted on the surface. Even though it can happen with age, simple or regular actions such as squatting or lifting heavy objects might result in a torn meniscus. Here are the major causes of the condition.
- Trauma-Related Tears
The meniscus can be injured or torn suddenly in acute trauma-related accidents. It is often witnessed during athletic or sports activity where the individual knee gets twisted, putting excess stress on the tissues. For instance, people who play sports like basketball and football involve physical contact like tackle or are more prone to meniscus tears.
- Degenerative Tears
As people get older, their knees weaken and accumulate more damage. Research shows that degenerative meniscus tear occurs from the wearing out of the meniscus, which is more common in older people. In addition, if you have pre-existing musculoskeletal disorders like arthritis, it can also contribute to the onset of a torn meniscus.
Types of Meniscus Tears
A meniscus tear is a primary cause of knee pain since the damaged cartilage will no longer provide complete cushion protection between the bones. Below are the main types of meniscus tears.
Radial tear – Radial tear affects the area of the knee that lacks blood supply, making the tear unable to heal independently.
Horizontal tear – Horizontal tear is one of the most common and easiest to repair. The surgeon will sew the circumferential fibres of the meniscus together to heal the damage.
Flap tear – A flap tear has an unusual pattern and causes a clicking sensation in the knee joints.
Bucket handle tear – A bucket handle tear involves a larger part of the knee, preventing its normal function.
Incomplete tear – Incomplete tear indicates the early stage of degeneration and doesn’t usually pose a threat.
Complex tear – Complex meniscus damage involves several tear patterns with the symptoms of radial and horizontal tears.
Symptoms of Meniscus Tears
If you have a torn meniscus, it might be challenging to notice a difference in your knee just by looking at it. Here are some common signs and symptoms of the condition to be aware of.
- Pain and Swelling in the Knee
You will notice nagging pain around the knee joint, especially after performing certain activities like climbing stairs, running or walking. Severe pain is followed by swelling/ inflammation, making the knee joint warm and tender to the touch.
- Stiffness and Limited Range of Motion
A meniscus tear can also cause stiffness, making it difficult to twist or move your knees laterally. In the episode of a torn meniscus, the affected individual is more likely to have a limited range of motion due to the weakness and pain raises during activity.
- Locking or Clicking Sensation on the Knee
The patient may also feel a locking or catching sensation in their knee joints. It will make them unstable while standing or walking since the knee cannot support their upper body weight.
Treatment Options for Meniscus Tears
- Non-Surgical Treatments
When the meniscus tear is mild, it may heal in a few days. However, implementing certain minimally-invasive treatment options will repair the injury promptly.
The initial approach to treat meniscus tears is to follow the basic RICE therapy. The therapy is an effective non-surgical approach to meniscus tears.
Your physician might also add non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications to your tailor-made torn meniscus treatment plan. NSAIDs like ibuprofen will add to reducing swelling and pain.
Physical therapy is a critical aspect of your treatment plan for a meniscus tear to heal the injury properly and regain strength, mobility and complete range of motion in the knee. Experts consider following physical therapy exercises to yield better outcomes with great functional improvements.
- Surgical Options
When the symptoms don’t improve with a conservative meniscus tear treatment approach, the orthopaedic specialist will identify the type of surgery required depending on the tear’s size, location, age, and activity level. Some of the options are,
Meniscectomy – Meniscectomy or meniscus trimming is the common meniscus injury accounting to restore the full functionality of the meniscus. It is a surgical procedure of removing either unstable meniscus fragments (partial meniscectomy) or the entire damaged meniscus (total meniscectomy).
Meniscus repair – Meniscus repairs are performed for specific patterns of meniscus tears and certain locations. The process is generally suggested for younger individuals with a torn meniscus.
Meniscus transplant – Meniscus transplantation is recommended for those who have already undergone meniscus trimming in the past and have fray ends due to the lack of tissues.
Recovery and Rehabilitation
You can work with your healthcare professional to build an individuated rehabilitation pattern to speed up your recovery and regain mobility as much as possible. The rehab program will have both physical therapy and exercise that will increase the strength and flexibility of the knees.
A coordinated physical therapy regimen will aid you by advancing the healing and helping you return to your sports or daily activities. In addition, performing simple exercises focusing on the front (quadriceps) and back (hamstrings) of the thighs will improve the overall leg function.
Your knee is the critical and complex joint in your body. Therefore, don’t ignore it when it hurts. A meniscus tear or strain will prevent your knee from performing its optimal function when you make each step a day.
When you see mild symptoms at first, the condition will progress into a severe condition over a few weeks.
There is no need to push through the pain to stay active. Instead, opt for an accurate diagnosis and Personalized torn meniscus treatment plan coupled with healthy lifestyle changes to restore your mobility and protect your knee long-term.