Torn Meniscus: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

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A torn meniscus is a common knee injury. It can occur when the knee is twisted too far in one direction or if you fall and twist it improperly. The meniscus is made of cartilage and acts as a cushion between your shinbone and your thighbone. If torn, it can cause pain and immobility. Some torn meniscus injuries are worse than others and require a special treatment. Other get better on their own.

Torn Meniscus Causes

The common cause of a torn meniscus is a twist or fall. Sometimes, movements that are not fast or sudden can still cause the injury. In many cases, the cause is unknown. A variety of things cause a torn meniscus. Some of the most common causes include:

  • Running
  • Jumping
  • Bowling
  • Walking up or down steps or hills
  • Sports
  • Sliding to bases
  • Carrying heavy things uphill
  • Being overweight

Torn Meniscus Symptoms

The symptoms of a torn meniscus can vary from person to person. Some people only have mild symptoms that do not last long, and other people have severe symptoms that last for months. Some of the most common symptoms associated with a torn meniscus include:

Torn Meniscus Diagnosis

Diagnosing a torn meniscus can sometimes be difficult. The symptoms can mimic those of many other knee injuries, and many people don’t realize the extent of their injuries and do not seek medical attention. Doctors use a variety of different tests and exams to diagnose a torn meniscus. Some of the most common tests include:

Torn Meniscus Treatment

Treatment for a torn meniscus can vary. More serious injuries require surgery, while others may get better on their own. Some patients prefer to try to rest and let the injury heal on its own and then opt for surgery if it does not improve. Doctors use a variety of treatments, including:

  • Rest: If patients can stay off their feet for several days or even weeks, the meniscus may heal on its own if the tear isn’t too severe.
  • Ice: Ice can help reduce the swelling and pain and help the injury heal faster.
  • Medication: Medications can also help with pain and inflammation and make the patient more comfortable while they wait on the injury to heal.
  • Physical therapy: After the tear has mended, physical therapy can help the patient regain use of their knee and avoid future injuries.
  • Surgery: In the case of severe tears, surgery may be necessary to repair the tear. In cases where patients continue to tear their meniscus, surgery may also help prevent future injuries.

Torn Meniscus Prognosis

The prognosis for someone with a torn meniscus usually is good. Whether the injury is mild or severe, it can be repaired with the right treatment. Recovery can take anywhere from a few days to a few months, depending on how severe the tear was and treatment method being used. Most people regain full mobility of their legs, but they may easily tear it again if they continue to be active or are at risk in other ways.