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The meniscus, a piece of cartilage cushions between the thighbone and shinbone. In each knee joint, there are two menisci. And they can be torn or damaged while performing activities that put pressure or rotate the knee joint. Although it is the athletes or the sportsperson who is prone to a meniscus tear, getting up too quickly from a squatting position can also cause a meniscal tear.

The treatment options for meniscus tear depend on the severity of the injury and options can vary from home remedies to surgery.

What causes a meniscus tear?

The meniscus can get torn while doing certain activities that cause direct pressure or contact from a forced rotation or twist. Sometimes, deep squatting or heavy lifting, sudden pivot or turn can lead to the injury.

Meniscus tears are common among sportspersons but are growing increasingly in children. This is due to the fact that children participate in organized sports at an earlier age.

The meniscus tends to weaken with age. And tears are found to more common in people above the age of 30. If one has osteoarthritis, he or she can be at higher risk of injuring the knee or tearing the meniscus. When an older person has a meniscus tear, it can be related to degeneration. This happens when the cartilage in the knee tends to become weaker and as a result it can prone to tear.

symptoms of a meniscus tear

When one has a meniscus tear, a popping sound can be heard around the knee joint. And later one can experience the following:

  • Swelling the area
  • Pain in the area, when touched
  • Inability to move in a full range of motion
  • Feeling of the knee catching and locking
  • A strange feeling that the knee is unable to support

How is a meniscus tear diagnosed?

The doctor will first discuss the symptoms with the patient and then examine the knee and test the range of motion. The doctor will also perform a McMurray test to look for a meniscal tear. The test would involve bending and straightening the knee. If a slight pop is heard during the test, then it indicates a tear of the meniscus.

Imaging Tests:  Imaging tests are advised to confirm a tear of the meniscus. These include

  • Knee X-ray
  • MRI
  • Ultrasound
  • Arthroscopy

Treatment for Meniscus Tear

One can treat the knee injury with conservative techniques that include the RICE method – Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation.

There can be medications such as aspirin and ibuprofen or any other non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs given to reduce pain and swelling around the knee.

Physical therapy also helps reduce the pain and increases the knee’s mobility and stability.

Surgery

If the knee is not responding to any traditional treatments, the doctor will recommend arthroscopic surgery. The doctor will also provide specific instructions for how to prepare for the surgery.

The surgeon will make a small incision in the knee and insert tools and camera through the incision to repair or try to trim away the damaged meniscus. And in case it involves a meniscal repair, the recovery time will take about six weeks.

The recovery period includes regular visits to the doctor and also physical therapy to strengthen the muscles the supporting the knee.