Do I need surgery for a meniscus tear?

The knees are an incredibly intricate and fascinating part of the human body. They are referred to as a “hinge joint” due to the hinged movements that are required for walking, running, jumping, squatting, and kneeling. Unfortunately, since they support the body and are required for the majority of gross movements the body makes, they take a lot of abuse throughout life. That abuse often leads to knee injury. One of the most common injuries is a torn meniscus.

The Structure of the Knee

The knee consists of bones, ligaments, tendons, and cartilage.

  • Bones- There are four bones that meet at the knee. The largest is the femur, which runs the length of the thigh. The lower leg has two bones — the tibia is the larger of the two and is also referred to as the shin, and the fibula runs along the outside of the lower leg. The fourth bone is the patella or kneecap. The bones of the legs are in place to support the weight of the body.
  • Ligaments- There are four main ligaments in the knee. Ligaments connect bone to bone and help the knee rotate without the bones slipping out of place.
  • Tendons- The tendons in the knee are similar to the ligaments, in that they provide stability within the knee. Unlike ligaments, tendons connect bone to muscle. The largest tendon in the knee is the patellar tendon which connects the tibia and patella to the quadriceps muscle.
  • Cartilage- There are two types of cartilage in the knee and they both act as a shock absorber. The articular cartilage also helps the bones move easily around each other. The medial and lateral menisci are two curved discs that absorb the shock of jumping and twisting motions but the menisci are also important to weight distribution. Injury to the meniscus is common in sports.

Symptoms of a Meniscus Tear

The degree of a meniscus tear can range from minor to severe. A minor tear will likely feel better within a few weeks if treated properly. A moderate tear will likely swell and remain swollen for several days. A moderate tear may feel better within a few weeks but the pain will likely return especially with increased activity. A severe tear will swell right away and you may feel pain. In addition to hearing clicks and pops in the knee you will likely have trouble straightening your knee and it may lock in place.

Treatment for a Meniscus Tear

Initial treatment of the injured knee should include rest, ice, compression, over the counter pain relievers, and elevation. More extensive treatment options really depend on the degree of damage to the meniscus. It is important to seek medical advice and determine the most appropriate course of action. You may choose to talk with your primary care physician in order to determine if you should go to a physical therapist or an orthopedic surgeon. You may need an MRI in order to determine the exact location of the injury as well as the extent of injury. If meniscus injury does not heal properly, it may lead to arthritis. Contact a doctor, like a knee doctor from Premier Osteoarthritis Centers of Pennsylvania, to get relief for your knee pain.