A Torn Meniscus: Symptoms, Causes, Risk Factors, and Treatment

Meniscus tears are among the most common knee injuries, especially among contact sports athletes. However, anyone can suffer a meniscus tear West Chester regardless of age and activity level. Besides contact sports, a torn meniscus can result from any activity that causes you to forcefully twist your knee when putting your full weight on it. A meniscus tear is painful and also causes swelling and stiffness. It may also cause a block to knee motion and you might be unable to extend your knee fully. Meniscus tears improve with conservative treatment such as rest, ice, and medication, but severe cases may require surgery.

Symptoms of a meniscus tear

You might feel a popping sensation when you tear your meniscus but you can still walk on your injured knee if the tear is small. Many athletes can keep playing with a tear, but the knee gradually becomes stiff and swollen over two to three days. Classic symptoms of a torn meniscus include pain, especially when twisting your knee, swelling, locking of your knee, and inability to straighten your knee fully. You may also have the sensation of your knee giving way. See your doctor if your knee is painful, swollen, or can’t move through its full range of motion.

What causes a meniscus tear?

Acute torn meniscus tears often result from any activity that causes you to twist your knee forcefully. For example, a meniscus tear can occur during sports that involve aggressive pivoting or sudden stops and turn. A torn meniscus can also result from lifting something heavy or deep squatting.

As you age, you are more likely to have degenerative changes in the knee. Worn-out tissue is more prone to tears with little or no trauma. For example, an awkward twist when getting up from a chair can cause an aging meniscus to tear.

Who is at risk of a torn meniscus?

Although anyone can tear their meniscus, this injury is more common in athletes who participate in contact sports such as football. Other activities that involve aggressive twisting and pivoting of the knee include tennis and basketball; these also put you at risk of a meniscus tear. Being overweight exerts extra pressure on your knee joint, increasing your risk of a torn meniscus. As previously mentioned, older adults are also more likely to have a meniscus tear due to degenerative changes in the knee.

Treatment options for a torn meniscus

When choosing the appropriate treatment, your doctor will consider factors such as your symptoms, age, and activity level. The size, type, and location of injury also determine the treatment your healthcare provider recommends.

If your symptoms are mild and you have no locking and swelling of the knee, your doctor may recommend the RICE protocol. First, you need to rest; take a break from the activity that caused the injury and use crutches to avoid putting weight on your legs. You can also use cold packs, wear a compression bandage and elevate your legs when you rest to reduce swelling. Other non-surgical treatments include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and steroid injections.

If you have symptoms of a torn meniscus, schedule a session with your provider at Beacon Orthopedics & Sports Medicine for treatment to regain the full function of your knee.