What is a meniscus tear?

The knee is the largest joint in the human body, allowing flexion, extension and twisting movements. Since the knee has many components, such as tendons, ligaments, cartilage, and bones, it is susceptible to a wide number of injuries. One of the more commonly injured structures of the knee is the meniscus. The menisci are fibrocartilage structures, different from the cartilage on the end of your bones, that act as shock absorbers for the knee joint and distribute the weight load of your body throughout your knee. Occasionally with a twisting or deep bending motion, you can injure or tear a meniscus, especially during sports. The meniscus can tear in isolation or along with other structures such as the central or side ligaments of the knee. The menisci look roughly like the letter “C” within the knee joint. There are two menisci in each knee, one on the medial side and the other on the lateral side. When the meniscus tears, the shape of the tear will determine how the tear should be treated. Dr. Alexander Brown, orthopedic knee specialist, can diagnose and treat patients in Nashville, Tennessee and the surrounding areas who have a meniscus tear injury.

What are the symptoms of a meniscus tear?

When a meniscus is torn, the knee usually hurts right at the joint line and the knee may swell a little bit. Often, patients will have trouble bending their knee deeply, going up or down stairs, squatting, or pivoting suddenly on that knee. They usually feel a sense of catching, locking, or giving way of the knee that takes away their confidence in walking or makes them feel guarded with moving to avoid pain. If the meniscus was torn due to sudden trauma or injury, the knee may lock and get stuck in a bent position.

How do you treat a meniscus tear?

Some tears of the meniscus are termed degenerative, meaning they occurred over time from repeated “wear and tear” and breakdown of the integrity of the meniscal cartilage. These types of degenerative tears often accompany knee osteoarthritis. Usually these types of tears are treated conservatively with oral anti-inflammatory medications, physical therapy, and possibly an injection into the knee joint. However, degenerative tears can be present for many years but suddenly enlarge and cause the previously mentioned symptoms as well.

Certain types of tears require that the meniscus be repaired to ensure it can still properly function as a load distributor within the knee. The location and shape often determine if the meniscal tear will heal if repaired. Some tears will never heal and the portion of the meniscus that is damaged and causing symptoms is partially removed, allowing the meniscus to still function without losing all its shock absorbing function.

CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE

Meniscus Tear Types

Sports Medicine and Meniscus Tear Specialist

As a sports medicine specialist in Nashville, Tennessee, Dr. Alexander Brown focuses on meniscus injury treatments including knee arthroscopy. If the meniscal injury continues to cause pain despite conservative treatment, or if repair is determined the best course of action, Dr. Brown will perform arthroscopic surgery with minimally invasive incisions to clean up the tear, repair the tear, or partially remove the torn portion to alleviate symptoms. The specific surgery performed is unique to each patient as age, activity level, and overall health, factor into how best to treat meniscus injuries.

How long does it take to recover from a partial meniscus removal?

If a patient requires a partial removal of the meniscus, the patient is usually able to bear weight with crutches and can gradually stop using them after a few days. Over the course of about 4-6 weeks, physical therapy will focus on keeping swelling down and maintaining range of motion and strength within the knee. Patients are usually able to return to full unrestricted activities around 8 weeks. The length of recovery can be shorter or longer depending on multiple circumstances.

How long does it take to recover from a meniscus repair?

If a patient requires a meniscus repair, the healing process takes substantially longer than a partial removal. Usually weight bearing of the knee is protected and range of motion is limited for about 4 weeks. However, the tear pattern and repair technique may allow immediate weight bearing as well. Physical therapy is instrumental to the successful outcome of a meniscus repair. The patient will see a physical therapist multiple times a week at first, then gradually taper to weekly sessions, stressing the joint in the right way to facilitate healing, but prevent stiffness and muscle atrophy. The recovery time is a great opportunity to strengthen other parts of the body as well which can facilitate a smoother return to sports and help protect re-injury. Returning to unrestricted sporting activities can take anywhere from 4 – 7 months depending on the severity of the initial injury.

For more information on meniscus tears, or on a meniscus repair or removal, as well as the treatment options available for your knee pain,  please contact the office of Dr. Brown, serving patients in Nashville, TN and the surrounding communities, at Nashville Sports Medicine and Orthopaedic Center, 615-284-5800.

REQUEST A CONSULTATION
Contact Us


Stay Safe!

Dr. Byrd and his team now offer appointments via telemedicine

  • New patient evaluation
  • Physical therapy
  • Follow-up patient care
CALL 615-284-5800 FOR APPOINTMENT