Cartilage is the tough, slick substance that cushions your joints and helps bones glide smoothly. The cartilage inside your knee that protects your upper and lower leg bones is called the meniscus, and a meniscus tear is an injury that affects it.
An acute injury can damage the meniscus, causing pain, stiffness, and swelling in the knee. This type of injury is common in athletes, but it can happen to anyone who accidentally twists their knee in an awkward way.
Meniscus tears are one of the most common causes of knee pain, particularly for older individuals. As you age, cartilage naturally deteriorates and becomes more fragile, making a meniscus tear more likely.
Aron Rovner, MD and our team at New York Spine and Sport Surgery specialize in diagnosing and treating meniscus tears. These common knee injuries can keep you on the sidelines of life, but the right treatment can help you get back on your feet.
Symptoms of a meniscus tear
The meniscus is C-shaped, and it cushions the two largest bones — the femur and the tibia — where they come together in your knee joint. It also offers stability, and it helps the bones, ligaments, and tendons give motion to your knee.
When you suffer a meniscus tear, the cartilage rips. It may tear partially or completely, depending on the severity of your injury.
You could have a torn meniscus if you notice:
- A popping sensation when injury occurs
- Pain and swelling
- Joint stiffness
- Locking in the knee
- Joint instability
- Joint weakness
- Decreased range of motion
Most of the time, you can still bear weight on your leg if you have a meniscus tear — but that doesn’t mean you should. Meniscus tears don’t usually heal on their own. Pain, swelling, and other symptoms may continue getting worse the longer you wait to seek treatment.
Treating a meniscus tear
Meniscus tears range in severity. Sometimes, the cartilage tears partially, while more severe injuries can completely tear through it.
If you suspect a meniscus tear, come in so Dr. Rovner can examine your knee and review your symptoms. Medical imaging, such as X-rays, may be recommended to help him determine the extent of your injury.
Small tears that affect only the outside portion of the meniscus can heal fully with conservative care. At-home treatments often include rest, ice, compression and elevation. Dr. Rovner may recommend medication to manage any pain as your knee heals.
More severe tears may not heal adequately with at-home care. Complete tears may require surgery to repair. Whenever possible, Dr. Rovner utilizes the latest in minimally invasive orthopedic surgery techniques to repair cartilage and promote healthy recovery.
Physical therapy is an important part of your recovery plan, no matter how severe your meniscus tear is. Rehabilitation strengthens your knee and helps restore range of motion. Not only does this enhance recovery, but it also decreases your risk of suffering another meniscus tear later on.
Don’t ignore knee pain and hope it goes away on its own. Book an appointment with Dr. Rovner by calling the New York Spine and Sports Surgery office closest to you — in either Garden City, New York, or Fair Lawn, New Jersey.