Categories: Orthopaedics

Torn Meniscus Injury: All You Need To Know

When it comes to knee injuries, a torn meniscus is one of the most common ones that you would see. This is especially the case for sportspeople, where the risk of suffering from a torn lateral meniscus is at its maximum. The chance of getting a torn meniscus is so huge because it can be caused by any form of movement that forces you to twist or rotate your knee.

What is a Torn Meniscus?

Femur, tibia, and patella are the three bones that are present in the knee. Each of our knees has two C-shaped slivers of cartilages. The primary function of this cartilage is to act as a cushion between the shinbone and the thigh bone (menisci). This allows easy and free movement of the joints without sustaining any injuries or getting any form of pain.

The menisci are crescent-shaped connective tissues that act as shock absorbers to safeguard the lower part of the leg from the entire body weight. There are two types of meniscus – the medial meniscus is on the inner side of the joint, while the lateral meniscus is on the outer side. The implications of a torn medial meniscus and a torn lateral meniscus could vary depending on the situation.

In case of a torn meniscus, you might have some difficulty trying to extend your knee to its full span. Moreover, you might not be able to move your knee without any pain as you might face a ‘locking’ sensation.

There are different types of meniscus tears, depending on their size and severity. It could have a slight tear, split in half, and so on. Thus, it is essential to note that the implications of a torn meniscus vary from person to person. The injury might be treatable through recovery exercises for some, while for others, some more proactive measures might be required.

The Causes of Torn Meniscus

It is quite common for people to sustain torn meniscus injuries. The most primary cause for such an injury is a rotating movement of the knee. This is especially the case when you rotate your knee while putting your whole body weight into it. For example, sportsmen suffer from a torn meniscus when they twist their upper leg while fixating their foot in one place.

In geriatric population meniscus tears mostly present as Root tears. These injuries result even from minor loading of knee joint like getting up from squatting position or climbing or getting down from stairs. In these injuries an already degenerative meniscus gets torn out from its roots.

The severity of meniscus tears can vary depending on a lot of factors. You could sustain a minor tear where the meniscus remains attached to the knee. But in case of significant tears, the meniscus would barely remain connected to the knee and only through a thread of cartilage.

Symptoms of Meniscus Tears

If you’ve sustained a minor tear, then the chances are that you won’t even notice your injury for some while. Even in case of major tears, some people dismiss the idea of visiting a doctor and wait for the damage to heal naturally. Unfortunately, that is not the right thing to do.

Recognizing torn meniscus symptoms is important knowledge, especially for active people who undergo a lot of physical movement. Here are some of the most common symptoms of a torn meniscus:

  • Pain or discomfort when you are trying to extend your knee to a straight/standing position.
  • Swelling or stiffness in the knee.
  • Pain or discomfort when you try to rotate your knee.
  • Clicking sensations when you try to move the knee.
  • Locking mechanical block where the knee cannot be fully extended or straightened.
  • The feeling as though your knee would give away at times.
  • The knee might feel weak, unreliable, and unstable.

If you are facing these symptoms, it is advisable that you consult a healthcare expert as they could also be associated with other health problems.

When to Consult a Doctor

One should never ignore a knee injury. The same is true for torn meniscuses.

You should contact your doctor if:

  • You see any swelling on your knee.
  • If your knee gets locked (unable to fully extend).
  • If you feel any pain or discomfort when you try to move your knee.
  • If you feel any sort of restriction in the movement of your knee

Torn Meniscus Diagnosis

  1. X-Ray: Meniscus injuries are not seen on x-rays but they have to be done routinely to rule out bony injuries,   .
  2. MRI: The MRI is the investigation of choice to diagnose meniscus injuries. MRI shows in detail the site, size and severity of meniscus injury. Along with clinical examination, it helps in decision making regarding treatment options.
  3. Arthroscopy: Diagnostic arthroscopy is the most accurate way of finding and evaluating a tear in the meniscus. Arthroscopy is a procedure that healthcare experts use to diagnose and treat joint problems. In this procedure, a surgeon would insert a fibre-optic video camera attached to a small tube (arthroscope) through a small incision. The video created by the camera will then transmit to a high-definition monitor, which helps the doctors make detailed judgments.

Treatments

The treatment for meniscus tears varies depending upon many factors, such as the size and severity of the tear. Other factors include the patient’s age, symptoms, and other medical records. Most of the minor tears can be treated through some general torn meniscus exercises that can aid the recovery of the tissue. But in most cases, people may require a torn meniscus surgery, especially if they engage in a lot of physical activities like sports.

Torn meniscus treatments may include:

  • Applying an ice pack on the place of injury.
  • Taking medications such as acetaminophen, aspirin, or ibuprofen won’t treat the injury, but it will help with the pain and reduce inflammation.
  • Muscle and movement exercises in case the tear is minor.
  • Arthroscopic surgery is required in severe cases. This may include arthroscopic repair, arthroscopic partial meniscectomy, or arthroscopic total meniscectomy depending upon the type of injury.

Road To Recovery

The ordeal of going through a meniscus tear can be exhausting. There is no way to know how to treat a torn meniscus naturally without getting input from a doctor. Moreover, a torn meniscus recovery time would also vary depending upon the severity of the injury. Not consulting a doctor when you feel pain or discomfort can take away valuable time from your life that you could instead spend recovering. Consulting a doctor if you have the symptoms of a torn meniscus is vital to lead a normal, healthy life.

Dr. Atul Shrivastava | Consultant – Orthopaedics | Narayana Superspeciality Hospital, Howrah, Kolkata

Narayana Health

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