A meniscus tear is one of the most common injuries to the knee. Depending on how severe the tear is, will depend if you require surgery. If the tear is not severe, physiotherapy could be sufficient for you to heal the injury. There are a number of factors that can affect recovery success and timeframes.
Here we explain in more detail, plus cover the main causes and treatments of meniscus tears.
About the meniscus
The knee contains two pads of resilient, fibrous cartilage, located between your shin bones and thigh, called “menisci”.
They are C-shaped and sit one on the inner side, the medial meniscus, and one on the outer side of the knee, the lateral meniscus.
The medial meniscus is the larger of the two, and links up with the medial ligament, generally causing more likelihood of injury.
The function of the menisci is two-fold.
- Firstly, they transfer the weight load from the upper to the lower leg, acting as shock absorbers and offering stability to the knee during extension and flexion, as well as reducing the stress on your knee joint.
- Secondly, because the surfaces of the upper and lower leg bones don’t fit perfectly together, the menisci create a vital balance, whilst also protecting the smooth ends of your bones from damage.
Meniscus tear – how they occur
A meniscus tear typically occur if you twist your knee from sudden movement. Athletes are particularly prone to meniscus tears as it often occurs as a result of heightened activity.
In young people, the meniscus has a better supply of peripheral blood, keeping the menisci healthy, rubbery and tough.However, as you age, the blood supply diminishes and the meniscus becomes stiffer, so injury can happen more frequently, even without strenuous activity.
It is essential to treat a torn meniscus as it provides an important cushion for the knee, which protects the articular cartilage and helps to prevent knee arthritis.
Meniscus tear surgery
There are a number of factors to consider when an Orthopaedic specialist decides the best treatment for a torn meniscus. They will take into account:
- What type of tear you have, and how severe it is
- The location of the tear, whether it is lateral or medial
- Personal profile, health, age and need to be active in a short space of time
In some cases, if the menisci retain a good blood supply, physiotherapy and rest may enable a full recovery, with a little time and patience. Surgery can often be the best option though, for a full recovery.
Because there are many ways that the meniscus can tear, surgery varies. In some cases a small portion of the torn meniscus is removed, other times it is able to be repaired.
Knee surgery is so advanced these days that it is performed using key-hole surgery, where small incisions are made to the area and with the help of a camera, the menisci can be treated.
Meniscus tear recovery
As with most injury, or surgery, your general health plays a part in the speed and effectiveness of your recovery.
Meniscus tear recovery time varies and your Orthopaedic surgeon will be able to discuss estimates based on your own situation.
Physiotherapy is always needed following any surgery, so it is vital to keep up your exercise and advice given to you by your doctor. Sometimes a knee brace is used in the early stages to help protect a meniscus that has been surgically repaired.
A few factors are known to affect meniscus tear recovery:
- Your age. Recovery times are usually longer the older you are. Many young patients can recover from this injury quickly and efficiently.
- Your weight. If you are overweight, recovery could be longer as added pressure to your knee makes it more difficult to repair.
- Your activity levels. Healing time may be quicker for those that were very active before the injury. However, even the most active people will be encouraged to rest sufficiently following injury and follow doctor’s suggestions on how much movement you should do each day. It is often different case-by-case.
- The type of surgery.
- Arthritis. If arthritis is present in the knee, a longer period of recovery may apply.
Specialist help is available regarding meniscus tears. Our many years of expertise combined with the latest medical technology means that Carrothers OrthopaedicsNorrish can help to get you back on your feet and doing the things in life you love.