By Paul E. Caldwell, MD
What is a Meniscus?
The meniscus is a rubbery, C-shaped disc that cushions your knee (each one of your knees has two of them – a medial meniscus and a lateral meniscus). One is at the outer edge of the knee and the other along the inner edge of the knee. Thus, a torn meniscus can prevent your knee from working properly.
In addition to functioning as a shock absorber of the knee, the meniscus is necessary for stability purposes.
How Does a Torn Meniscus Happen?
In the younger population, a torn meniscus is typically sports related. It commonly affects athletes in any sport with a large amount of cutting or pivoting – sports like soccer, tennis, football, and lacrosse. Because pivoting puts a strain on the meniscus, there is a higher chance of tears.
In the older population, a torn meniscus is much more likely a result of “wear and tear.” As we get older, the blood supply to the meniscus is reduced. Thus, our propensity for injury is higher.
Simple, every day activities can lead to meniscus tears in older adults – activities like twisting while getting out of a chair or car, and even squatting down. Oftentimes, these actions are repeated on numerous occasions without any complaints. In fact, it’s not uncommon for people diagnosed with a torn meniscus to receive the injury without “doing anything.”
Common Symptoms of a Torn Meniscus
The most common symptom of a torn meniscus is intermittent pain that worsens with activity. It’s possible a person could be bothered all of the time by a torn meniscus, but not likely. Most people with a torn meniscus report pain is not an issue while sitting or sleeping, but flares up during heightened activity (for example, while playing sports).
Another symptom of a torn meniscus is swelling or tightness in the knee. In this “joint-line pain” scenario, the discomfort is usually found on the side of the knee.
Mechanical symptoms of a torn meniscus may include catching or a popping/locking sound, but this is less common.
Conservative Treatment of a Torn Meniscus
Conservative treatment of a torn meniscus may involve anti-inflammatory medications like Advil or Motrin, physical therapy, and/or cortisone shots. Surgery may also be considered as a possible long-term solution.
If you have specific questions related to what you believe may be a torn meniscus, we encourage you to schedule an appointment with one of our doctors today.