A torn meniscus is a knee joint injury that a large number of people encounter once or more during their lives. Like a bushing in a machine, the meniscus is a circular piece of cartilage that cushions the knee and helps provide stability for movement and direction changes. These tough, c-shaped pieces of tissue are made to withstand stress, however, as we age, it takes less and less force to create a tear. Even normal activities can lead to a small tear becoming larger.
If you are experiencing pain from a torn meniscus, no matter where you are in the treatment process, learning about the most common steps toward finding relief can help. The experts at Outpatient Joint Replacement Center are sharing this informative guide to give patients an informed perspective on their therapeutic options. Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions or would like to learn more about your treatment options.
Step One: Diagnosing a Torn Meniscus
A torn meniscus can develop as a result of physical activity that requires heavy twisting or rotating of the knee, particularly when putting weight on it. This is why people who play sports such as basketball or tennis often develop this injury — but it can occur due to a wide range of activities. People with a torn meniscus typically experience knee pain, a popping sharp sensation, inflammation and swelling, trouble straightening the knee and buckling in the knee joint. Anyone experiencing these symptoms should see a doctor to properly diagnose the injury and recommend the best course of treatment.
Diagnosing knee pain and knee joint injuries such as a torn meniscus usually involves the following steps:
- Questions about the injury and symptoms
- Review of medical and injury history
- Physical examination to move the knee and leg into different positions to identify painful areas
- Diagnostic imagery to confirm the injury
If a torn meniscus is the source of knee pain and immobility, you and your doctor can begin to discuss treatment options for relief.
Step Two: Conservative Treatment is Typically the First Course of Treatment
A torn meniscus can not heal without the help of some type of treatment, but sometimes a small tear can be made less symptomatic with treatment. Common recommendations include:
- Resting the knee joint
- Activity modification
- Using over-the-counter medication
- Alternating cold therapy such as an ice pack with a heat source
- Working with a physical therapist to improve range of motion and strength and stability as the knee joint injury heals.
- Pain relieving steroid injections to reduce pain and inflammation
- Certain regenerative therapies, such as amniotic injections or platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections can assist the body’s natural healing process
Above all, to avoid worsening the injury, patients should try not to put stress on the knee when recovering from a torn meniscus.
Step Three: When to Consider Surgical Options for a Torn Meniscus
In some cases, when symptoms persist, surgery may be indicated at the time of diagnosis. In younger patients with tears at the periphery where there is adequate blood flow, a repair can be considered.
However, as we age, successful repair becomes less likely.
Tears in the inner half of the meniscus do not have the blood supply to heal and are surgically treated with removal of the torn portion.
Meniscus surgery can also become a serious consideration if there is consistent knee pain that affects the ability to perform normal functions at work, around the house or during recreational activities. This is especially true if patients have fully explored conservative therapies and haven’t found relief. Another cause for surgery is if a minor tear becomes more severe.
There are a number of options for meniscus surgery, including arthroscopic repair, resection and, occasionally, knee replacement if the tear occurs in the setting of severe pre-existing arthritis. In an arthroscopic meniscus repair surgery, surgeons access the knee joint and fix the tear with sutures through small incisions. This can require several weeks on crutches and then slow physical therapy afterward. When the tear is in the inner half or if the tissue has deteriorated with age, arthroscopic resection surgery can be performed to remove the piece of damaged/torn meniscus. Recovery for this type of procedure is typical just a few weeks.
In other situations, particularly such as when there is arthritis and/or severe arthritis in conjunction with a torn meniscus, a knee joint replacement surgery can be the recommended course of action. Many patients with degenerative or posttraumatic arthritis who also develop torn meniscus are potential candidates for knee joint replacement because resecting the torn meniscus will only provide limited or inadequate pain relief.
In a knee replacement, the surgeon will replace or resurface the knee joint. A total joint replacement involves replacing the entire surface, while in partial knee replacements, the compartments that are not affected by arthritis can remain.
During a knee replacement surgery, a small incision will be made to access the knee joint. Supporting structures are moved aside with care, which enables the surgeon to reach the treatment area for knee replacement. Thanks to advances in technology, surgical techniques and anesthesia protocols, these procedures can be performed on an outpatient basis.
How OJRCA Can Help
If you have been suffering from chronic and disruptive knee pain as a result of arthritis, torn meniscus and other causes or contributors to joint damage, outpatient knee replacement can help relieve knee pain and improve knee joint mobility. The OJRCA team is passionate and dedicated to helping the people who come to us for relief achieve success and a return to a healthy and active lifestyle. We believe a major part of this is helping as many patients as possible enjoy the benefits of outpatient joint replacement procedures.
Although there is generally not an age restriction for outpatient knee replacement, patients do need to undergo a thorough screening to find out if medical conditions are present that would prohibit an outpatient procedure. Fortunately, even people who do need inpatient knee replacement can still benefit from the advancements that promote a more rapid recovery.
Considering surgery for a torn meniscus and related sources of knee joint damage and knee pain is a critical decision. This is why finding a surgeon and medical staff that makes you feel safe and informed is extremely important for long-term relief. The entire OJRCA team and board-certified surgeon Dr. Philip Clifford believe in treating patients like family and taking the time to ensure the highest level of care.
If you would like to learn more about torn meniscus treatment options, contact us today. We can tell you how to find out if you are a potential candidate for one of our procedures.