One of the most common knee injuries is a torn meniscus, the C-shaped pad of cartilage in your knee that normally acts as a shock absorber between the shinbone and thighbone.
A torn meniscus can occur when you forcefully twist or rotate your knee, such as an aggressive pivot or sudden stop and turn, particularly if you put your full weight on it. It can also happen when kneeling, squatting, or lifting heavy objects. If you are an older adult, degenerative changes and wear and tear on your knees can lead to a torn meniscus with little or no trauma, especially if you are overweight.
Besides resulting in pain, swelling, and stiffness, a torn meniscus might make it difficult for you to fully extend your knee, or give other mechanical symptoms. Although conservative measures – such as taking medication, resting, and icing your knee – can sometimes relieve the pain of a torn meniscus, the injury may require surgery. If left untreated, injury and a meniscus tear can lead to osteoarthritis in the injured knee later in life.
It may take time for the pain and swelling of a torn meniscus to begin, or sometimes the symptoms can be more immediate. So, how do you know if you need prompt medical attention?
Tell-Tale Signs of a Torn Meniscus
If you’ve torn your meniscus, you may exhibit the following signs and symptoms in your knee:
- A popping or catching sensation
- Swelling or stiffness
- Noticeable pain, especially when you twist or rotate your knee
- Difficulty straightening your knee fully
- The feeling that your knee is locked in place when you try to move it
- Feeling your knee give way
Your doctor can try to identify a torn meniscus during a physical exam by moving your knee and leg in various positions, watching you walk, and having you squat or turn in order to pinpoint the approximate location of the tear. A follow-up MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), which produces 3-dimensional pictures of the soft tissues in your knee, is the best way to detect a torn meniscus or other cartilage or ligament issues.
Depending on the type, size, and location of the tear, treatment for a torn meniscus usually begins with conservative methods, such as rest, ice, medication, and/or physical therapy designed to help strengthen the muscles around your knee to help stabilize and support the joint.
However, if these measures fail to relieve your pain or if your knee locks or gives way, your doctor may recommend an outpatient arthroscopic knee surgery to repair the tear or remove the torn portion. If you are suffering from advanced degenerative arthritis, you may have meniscus symptoms too, but in that case the definitive surgical treatment for end-stage arthritis is actually a knee replacement. As long as there is not significant arthritis in the knee, an arthroscopic procedure to address the meniscus tear alone is still possible.
Meniscus Tear Doctor Near Me in Raleigh, Apex & Brier Creek, North Carolina
If you suffer a torn meniscus, you’ll need professional help to minimize and relieve your pain and other symptoms. Dr. Brett J. Gilbert is not only board-certified and fellowship trained, but is also one of the most respected orthopedic surgeons in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Dr. Gilbert is committed to providing compassionate care, technical expertise, and personalized attention to patients with knee or hip issues using state-of-the-art technology and the most advanced, minimally invasive treatment solutions.