Even though a torn meniscus is one of the most common knee injuries, many people still don’t know what a meniscus is and how it can impact their lives. And while you may be part of the lucky ones who never have a meniscus-related injury, it’s still good to know more about your body and how it can cause damage that takes a long time to heal.
That’s why we will have a quick look at these C-shaped pieces of cartilage in your knees (two per each knee) and talk about how they can get damaged and what recovery looks like.
We already established that the meniscus is made of cartilage tissue and that it is part of the knee structure. Each knee has two C-shaped menisci called the medial and lateral menisci that act as shock-absorbers between the shinbone and thighbone (sort of like car suspensions’ are designed to absorb the shock from the tires).
The purpose of the menisci is to reduce the friction and absorb the shock produced by movements we do every day such as walking, jumping, or running. When the cartilage and menisci are healthy, the knee should have great mobility and power. Otherwise, moving would become incredibly painful and even impossible.
The knee is a complex joint that has to go through a lot of wear and tear throughout the lifetime of a person. Therefore, there are many types of tissue that can get damaged including muscles and tendons.
Still, because the meniscus is the literal cushion between the two big bones in the leg, a torn meniscus is often the cause of pain, swelling, stiffness, or knee-locking sensations.
The main cause behind this type of injury could be an unnatural twist that forces the knee to rotate at an uncomfortable angle (like when you pivot aggressively or when you stop and turn all of a sudden). Also, in older adults, the meniscus can suffer age-related damage.
If the injury is not too severe, rest, ice, and pain medication are enough to allow the body to heal itself. However, if the knee is already locking and there is swelling, you may have to go through surgery.
It may sound scary, but the meniscus tear surgery does not take long, is minimally invasive, and is not too painful. Also, depending on the tear and type of surgery (if it needs braces or not), you may not need much recovery at all. Also, if you do need recovery, you should be out for a few weeks (with some exceptions).
However, it’s important to find a reliable knee surgeon who is willing to perform reparatory surgery on your meniscus without trying to remove it or trim it (these actions can lead to arthritis later in life).
A meniscus injury usually presents with pain in various degrees of strength. When this happens, even if it’s not something too upsetting, you have to go to your doctor and see it through to avoid the tear or damage getting worse.
Also, if the pain impacts your life (before and/or after surgery) but you can’t take medication for it, there are various pain management specialists to help you through an injury and speed up recovery. So don’t get discouraged!
If you suspect you have a meniscus tear (or even if you don’t but your knee hurts) go to your doctor. A meniscus tear is not always obvious but it can impact your quality of life if not addressed on time.
Plus, current medical technologies and methods are trustworthy and less invasive than in the past. So, if you have to have knee surgery, chances are you will make a quick recovery.