Treating Meniscus Injuries in Adults
Acting as a shock absorber between the bones in the knee, the meniscus is a disc-shaped cushion of tough, rubbery tissue that helps cushion the joint during load-bearing activities. There are two menisci per knee, one on the medial (inner) side of the joint, and one on the lateral (outer) side. Injuries to the meniscus can be the result of a single traumatic event or happen gradually over time with repetitive activity. Our menisci naturally lose some of their water content and thus, some of their cushioning ability and durability.
Young people typically tear their meniscus with a single, sudden twisting or hyperflexion injury, whereas more mature people may injure or tear their meniscus with little to no trauma – sometimes during activities as routine as squatting.
Pain, usually localized to the inside or outside of the knee, is the most common symptom. Immediate swelling may occur, as well as a loss of range-of-motion. A symptom known as “locking” is also possible, in which the meniscus displaces and becomes lodged in the knee joint, preventing movement.
Because of the reduced amount of blood flow that the meniscus sees, most tears and injuries in adults have a limited healing ability. Meniscus tears are not totally preventable, but those with flexible hamstrings and strong hips and thighs are less susceptible.
Treatments for meniscus injuries vary depending on the location and severity of the injury, as well as the affected person’s age. Minor injuries like incomplete tears around the meniscus’ border are often treatable through rehabilitation, reduced activity levels, and anti-inflammatory medicines.
Non-operative treatments for meniscus injuries include:
- Rest, ice, compression, elevation (RICE) therapy
- Temporary crutch use to reduce load on the affected knee
- Anti-inflammatory medication use to reduce pain
- Physical therapy to help rebuild strength and flexibility in the affected knee and hip
- Steroid injections for meniscus tears that are unresponsive to other nonsurgical options
Meniscus injuries that prevent knee motion and limit functionality are often best repaired via knee arthroscopy – a minimally invasive surgical approach that uses small incisions to allow the insertion of a small camera and instruments to repair the affected area or shave down irreparable meniscus material, so it does not catch on the knee joint.
Following a knee arthroscopy, patients typically use crutches to aid in mobility and allow the knee to heal, and physical therapy is common to help rebuild strength and range-of-motion.
As always at Orthopaedic Associates of St. Augustine, we’re proud to play a role in helping people regain mobility and get back to their daily routines without pain. If you’ve experienced a meniscus tear or another type of orthopaedic injury, our advanced sports medicine team is here to help. Please request an appointment online or give us a call at 904-825-0540.