A meniscus is a cartilage disk between the two bones of your knee that serves as a shock absorber. These can often be injured in sports or traumatic injuries, but they can also be torn and damaged with normal wear and tear activities as we mature. There are actually two meniscal discs, one on the medial or inside and another on the lateral or outside of your knee joint. When they are torn they will cause symptoms of catching and locking or a sense that the knee gives way. Most people will experience some swelling and pain when they have a torn meniscus.
How to diagnose meniscus tears of the knee?
A history and physical exam of the knee will often suggest a torn meniscus. Sometimes an MRI is used to determine the extent of the meniscus tears. An MRI may also reveal other injuries to the structures of the knee. There may be damage to the cartilage on the end of the bones or to the ligaments of the knee that can cause similar symptoms.
Do all meniscus tears need surgery?
Do all meniscus tears need surgery? Not necessarily so! If you have meniscus tear symptoms such as pain, swelling, or catching then most likely the meniscus tear needs to be treated arthroscopically. It is better to repair or trim the torn meniscus before it gets worse and causes more damage to the knee. If the meniscus tear is not causing a lot of symptoms and is not due to a traumatic injury I will often recommend treatments such as anti-inflammatory medicines, rest, and physical therapy while monitoring your symptoms. Many of the meniscus tears that come from wear and tear will settle down and cause minimal problems after the initial aggravation. If the knee begins to give way, lock, or catch then we may have to proceed to surgery. If you have questions about meniscus tears please contact me or schedule an appointment.