Author: Rosemary Buckle, M.D.
A “meniscus tear” is a cartilage injury that occurs in the knee, primarily in active adults who are involved in contact sports like basketball or football. The menisci (there are two in each knee) are wedge-shaped pieces of cartilage on the lower left and right sides of the kneecap that act as shock absorbers between the thighbone and shinbone.
Menisci may tear if you suddenly squat and twist the knee, are tackled in football, or experience some other quick change of motion in the knee. These injuries can also develop gradually in older adults whose cartilage has weakened over time; these injuries are referred to as “degenerative meniscus tears.”
Symptoms of Meniscus Tear
It’s common to feel a popping sensation when the meniscus is torn. Other symptoms of meniscus tear, however, may take two or three days to fully present themselves. It’s typical for athletes to continue walking and even playing with a torn meniscus before they fully realize the extent of the injury. Symptoms may include:
- Knee pain
- Stiffness and swelling
- Instability in the knee
- Limited range of motion
- A catching or locking sensation in the joint
If you experience these symptoms, it’s important to see your physician or an urgent care facility for an evaluation. If untreated, torn meniscus tissue can drift into the joint, causing further knee problems.
Diagnosing Meniscus Tear
Your Houston orthopedic physician will begin the diagnostic process with a physical exam and review of your medical history. The McMurray test, which involves manipulating the leg to put tension on the torn meniscus, is a common test for diagnosing meniscus tears.
Next, an imaging test may be ordered to confirm the diagnosis, as other knee problems may sometimes mask as meniscus tears. X-rays and MRIs are helpful for diagnosing meniscus tears.
Treating Meniscus Tears In Houston
Treatment for meniscus tears can vary greatly from patient to patient, depending on the type, location and extent of the tear, as well as the patient’s history and lifestyle factors. The location of the tear is one of the most important factors to consider. The outer third of the meniscus has a rich blood supply, which means it can typically heal on its own or with the help of meniscus repair surgery. The inner two-thirds, however, does not have a rich blood supply, which makes tears in this area more complex and difficult to repair. Torn tissue in the inner part of the meniscus is usually trimmed surgically.
Standard nonsurgical joint injury therapies, such as RICE and the use of NSAIDs, apply here. If these therapies are not successful in resolving the injury, then arthroscopic surgery may be necessary. During surgery, tissue is either trimmed away or sutured together. Both types of procedures are done in a minimally invasive setting.
See a Houston Orthopedic Doctor for Meniscus Tear
Have your meniscus tear evaluated and treated by a Houston orthopedic physician. Schedule an appointment at Houston Institute for Sports Medicine & Orthopedics by calling (713) 756-5546. You can also schedule your appointment online.
Please consult with your physician before undertaking any form of medical treatment or adopting any exercise program or dietary guidelines.