A torn meniscus is one of the most common knee injuries. Any activity that causes you to forcefully twist or rotate your knee, especially when putting your full weight on it, can lead to a torn meniscus.
Each of your knees has two C-shaped pieces of cartilage that act like a cushion between your shinbone and your thighbone. The medial meniscus sits on the inside of the knee and the lateral meniscus sits on the outside of the knee.
A torn meniscus causes pain, swelling and stiffness. You also might feel a block to knee motion and have trouble extending your knee fully.
The torn meniscus treatment will depend on its size, type, and where it is located in the cartilage. Initial treatment normally consists of rest, NSAIDs, and physical therapy. If these conservative treatments fail, patients are faced with surgery depending on the location of the tear. If you are young enough and the tear is on the outer third of the meniscus, which has good blood flow, arthroscopic surgery can potentially stitch it back together to heal. If you are too old or the tear is on the inner two thirds of the meniscus, which has little to no blood flow, it is likely the meniscus will have to be removed. A third option, regardless of age or the tear location, is a single treatment of Orthowave® High-energy Shockwave Therapy, the FDA approved non-invasive alternative to surgery for numerous orthopedic injuries.
Left untreated, a meniscus tear may become worse by tearing more, which increases pain and lack of function. Ignoring a meniscus tear also puts you at greater risk for osteoarthritis.
Pain is usually worsened with squatting or twisting the injured knee. Routine walking does not normally make your meniscus tear worse. Standing, sitting, or sleeping also do not worsen the meniscus tear. However, too much sitting or not walking can reduce the strength of your leg which may increase your recovery time.
It is possible to climb stairs with a torn meniscus. However, pain is usually worsened when you go up and down stairs and has the potential to increase wear, tearing, and degeneration.
Recovery is dependent on the tear. If the tear is present on the outer third of your meniscus, it is possible for it to heal on its own or be repaired with surgery or High-energy Shockwave Therapy. If the tear is in the inner two thirds, it cannot be repaired with surgery, only trimmed or removed. However, High-energy Shockwave Therapy is still an option for damage to the inner portions of the meniscus.
The healing time depends on the severity of the tear and the treatment you receive. Minor tears may be healed with conservative treatments while more severe tears may require surgery or High-energy Shockwave Therapy. Healing time also varies from person on person and is dependent on age and other factors. Usually, a meniscus tear has a 4-8 week recovery time without surgery, 1 to 6 months with surgery, and 1 month with High-energy Shockwave Therapy.