A meniscus tear is one of the most common knee injuries we see at the Orthohealing Center – especially among athletes.
Characterized by a “pop,” pain and swelling, this injury requires immediate medical attention to protect your knee joint and stop the damage from progressing.
Understanding meniscus tears
The knee joint is composed of three bones: the thighbone, shinbone and kneecap. In between your thighbone and shinbone are tough pieces of cartilage, called meniscus, that work to absorb shock in the area and stabilize your joint.
Your meniscus can tear in one of two ways. The most common way is during sports, after being tackled, squatting or aggressively twisting the knee. The second way is a degenerative tear that affects older individuals. As the cartilage naturally weakens over time, it becomes more susceptible to injury. When this occurs, simple daily activities like bending down to pick up the newspaper can cause a tear. Often the process of a degenerative tear is like “putting a drop of water in in cup.” Each drop daily fills up the cup until one day a mild trauma overflows the cup & the meniscus is torn showing months to years’ worth of damage that previously did not cause pain.
When a meniscus tear first occurs, it’s common to feel a “pop” in your knee joint. In many cases, you’ll still be able to walk and participate in your sport right after the injury. However, the damage will progressively worsen over the next few days, causing symptoms such as:
- Catching of the knee joint
- Decreased range of motion
In order to diagnose a meniscus tear, our knee specialists will begin by collecting information about your injury. We’ll ask you what symptoms you have experienced, when they first appeared and what activities seem to make them worse.
We will then perform a physical examination to check for tender areas. From there, we will ask you to bend, straighten and rotate your knee to activate the meniscus. If it’s torn, your knee will click during these movements, indicating to our experts that a torn meniscus is in fact the problem. In order to definitively confirm the diagnosis, we will often order a state of the art 3 Tesla MRI to obtain a clear visual of the damage and assess cartilage baseline.
A customized approach to repairing meniscus tears
At the Orthohealing Center, we offer a variety of treatment options for your meniscus tear, depending on your needs and the severity of your injury. For example, if your tear is small, you may only need to rest, ice the area, elevate your leg and wear a compression garment to control swelling in order to feel better. In the meantime, you can take aspirin or ibuprofen to reduce pain and swelling as you heal.
However, if your tear is substantial, you may require a more progressive treatment approach. In the past, surgery was necessary to repair large tears – but that’s no longer the case. Today, regenerative therapies and/or customized physical therapy may be equally effective in repairing the damage – so you can potentially recover from your injury without an invasive surgical procedure.
For example, our knee specialists routinely leverage bone marrow stem cell therapy and PRP knee injections to treat meniscus tears for our Los Angeles patients. These therapies harness the power of your body’s own stem cells and platelets to heal the torn meniscus from the inside out, so you can heal and recover while avoiding the pain and downtime associated with traditional surgery. In particular cases where surgery is absolutely required, our team of physicians can apply Hyaluronic Acid, PRP, or Bone Marrow Stem Cells in the operating room directly into the lesion to potentially speed recovery, regulate inflammation and halt the arthritis process that traditionally ensues.