A torn meniscus is a very common knee injury that can cause pain and other uncomfortable symptoms, and it may also affect a person’s mobility and knee function. For patients in Cincinnati and Dayton, Ohio and Northern Kentucky, the foot and ankle specialists can treat a torn meniscus and get them back to the activities they love as quickly as possible.
What is a Torn Meniscus?
A meniscus is a C-shaped piece of cartilage that acts as a shock absorber between the thigh bone (femur) and shinbone (tibia), in the knee joint. There are two menisci in each knee: an inside (medial) meniscus and a lateral (outside) meniscus.
There are four types of meniscus tears:
- Bucket handle tear
- Flap tear
- Radial tear
- Degenerative tear1
Symptoms of a Torn Meniscus
Frequently, a torn meniscus is not immediately symptomatic. The injury may not swell until up to 48 hours after the trauma, and in some cases, not at all. However, as swelling increases, patients often experience knee pain when a piece of the meniscus folds on itself. This leads to a popping, clicking, or catching in the joint of the knee. Additional symptoms of a torn meniscus may include:
- Knee pain
- Knee stiffness
- Difficulty walking
- Difficulty going up and down stairs
- An inability to fully bend or straighten the knee
- Feeling like the knee may “give out”2
Patients with rheumatoid arthritis may experience worsening of symptoms, called flares. They may also experience periods where their symptoms are reduced, called remission.
What Causes a Torn Meniscus?
Most frequently, torn menisci are a result of twisting the knee joint when the foot is in contact with the ground. This usually happens during sports, during sudden stops, turns, or pivoting. A torn meniscus may also be a result of hyperflexion (when the knee bends excessively), such as during kneeling, lifting something heavy, or squatting.
Less frequently, meniscus tears occur with little or no trauma in older adults as a result of degenerative changes in the knee, such as osteoarthritis.3
Treatment for Torn Meniscus
It is important to seek treatment for a torn meniscus to ensure that the injury heals properly. If not, patients could be at an increased risk for further knee injuries, like a torn ACL or other ligament. Treatment for a meniscus tear depends on the type, location, and extent of the tear as well as the patient’s age, activity level, and symptoms.
Non-Surgical Treatment for Torn Meniscus
Non-surgical treatment for a torn meniscus includes:
- RICE therapy (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation)
- Activity modification
- NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen)
- Physical therapy and rehabilitation
- Steroid injections
Surgery for Torn Meniscus
The most common surgical treatment for meniscus tears is knee arthroscopy, a laparoscopic procedure where the surgeon inserts a camera and surgical instruments through small incisions in the knee. This allows the orthopedic surgeon to repair or trim the tear with less scarring and reduced recovery time.
Other arthroscopic surgery procedures that may be performed to treat a torn meniscus include:
- Partial Meniscectomy: During this procedure, the orthopedic surgeon trims away damaged meniscus tissue.
- Meniscus Repair: During meniscus repair surgery, the surgeon stitches (sutures) the torn pieces of the meniscus together. This procedure is performed less frequently, as a limited blood supply may impede healing.4
Frequently Asked Questions About Torn Meniscus
Can you walk with a torn meniscus?
You might be able to walk when you first suffer a torn meniscus. However, your knee will become more stiff and swollen over the next few days, and this may make walking too difficult or painful.
When should I consider surgery for a torn meniscus?
In cases where a meniscus tear is incomplete or on the edge (peripheral border) of the meniscus, conservative or non-surgical treatment is often effective. If a torn meniscus blocks motion in the knee, causes persistent knee pain, affects the range of motion in the injured knee, or otherwise limits a patient’s knee function, surgery may be necessary.
How long does it take to recover from meniscus surgery?
The recovery time after torn meniscus surgery depends on the extent of the injury and the procedure performed. Our patients begin physical therapy almost immediately after meniscus surgery.
After knee arthroscopy, many patients are able to get back to their normal activity within 6-8 weeks. Recovery after a meniscus repair takes longer, with many patients wearing a straight leg brace and using crutches for at least 3 weeks. Full recovery may take 3-6 months.
Contact Beacon Orthopaedics
If you have suffered a torn meniscus, it is important that you seek prompt treatment. The orthopedic surgeons and sports medicine specialists at Beacon Orthopaedics can properly diagnose knee injuries and provide the most effective treatment for meniscal tears to get patients back on their feet. To schedule a consultation at our practice in Cincinnati, please contact us today. We proudly serve patients from Dayton, Ohio, Northern Kentucky, and surrounding areas.
1 American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Meniscus Tear. Available: https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases–conditions/meniscus-tears/. Accessed August 18, 2022.
2 Cleveland Clinic. Torn Meniscus. Available: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/17219-torn-meniscus. Accessed August 18, 2022.
3 Mayo Clinic. Torn Meniscus. Available: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/torn-meniscus/symptoms-causes/syc-20354818. Accessed August 18, 2022.
4 American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Meniscus Tear. Available: https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases–conditions/meniscus-tears/. Accessed August 18, 2022.