More than 500,000 meniscus tears occur each year in the United States. Meniscus injuries can happen at any time and are one of the most frequently occurring cartilage injuries of the knee.
While you can’t always prevent a meniscus tear, you can keep it from getting worse. In this blog, the health specialists at the practice of Struan Coleman, MD, PhD, discuss what a meniscus tear is and the signs you can look for to tell if you may need treatment.
The meniscus is located in the knee at the conjunction of three bones: the thigh bone, kneecap bone, and shinbone. The meniscus is a rubbery disc that cushions all of these bones and keeps them from rubbing against each other. The disc, which is split into two sections called menisci, also helps distribute weight and pressure across the knee.
You’re most likely to injure your meniscus when suddenly twisting or turning while your foot is stationary and planted. You could injure your meniscus while playing sports, such as football, soccer, or baseball. You could also injure your meniscus off the field by lifting heavy boxes or slipping on a wet floor.
Like many parts of the body, the meniscus can wear down with age. Tears are more common among men and women over age 30. More than 40% of people age 65 or older have torn their meniscus at some point.
There are generally three types of meniscus injuries, which are categorized by the extent of the tear:
These injuries cause minor discomfort and can heal with rest. You should give your meniscus 2-3 weeks to completely heal before returning to exercise.
These tears are more painful, with pain possible on both the side and center of the knee. Moderate tears can impede your ability to walk, but they generally heal on their own. Swelling and discomfort usually grow the first few days but eventually go down with rest.
A tear is usually labeled as severe if the meniscus has a big tear. Loose pieces may cause the knee joint to lock or catch. This level of injury may also keep you from bending or straightening your leg and can make walking difficult. Severe tears usually require surgery to repair.
Many tissue injuries, including meniscus tears, can be categorized as acute injuries or overuse injuries. Acute injuries are sudden, such as can happen if a football player gets tackled awkwardly. These injuries are hard to prevent and can happen to even the fittest of athletes.
Overuse injuries develop over time. These injuries result from repetitively using the same parts of the body. An overuse injury may start as a small tear and get larger the longer it’s left untreated.
Warning signs that your meniscus may be in trouble from an overuse injury include:
If you feel any of the symptoms above, you need to take a few days off. If the symptoms persist, you should come in for an evaluation.
Don’t let knee pain keep you from living a full life. If you have a meniscus tear or think you do, book an appointment online or over the phone with the office of Struan Coleman, MD, PhD today.