The largest joint in the human body is the knee, and it is one of the more complex and complicated. The knee is very susceptible to pain and injury, mainly because it is used so much. Many different things can go awry in the knee, including perhaps the most frequent knee ailment, meniscal tears. Those at the highest risk of meniscal tears are individuals who play contact sports, although anyone can suffer a meniscus tear. When someone mentions having torn cartilage in their knee, they are most likely referring to the meniscus, and they may end up visiting the sports medicine doctors at Randolph Orthopedics and Sports Medicine in Asheboro NC.
What is a meniscal tear?
A meniscal tear is a breaking away or “tearing” of the cartilage that cushions the knee joint.
Meniscal tears occur in varying ways, and they are categorized by where they occur and how they appear. Common tears are known as mixed or complex, bucket handle, flap, parrot-beak and longitudinal. A tear caused by sports can beaccompanied by another knee injury, such as an ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) tear. Orthopedic surgery is sometimes indicated.
Causes of meniscal tears
Abrupt meniscal tears generally occur during sports. A participant may twist the knee when squatting, which causes a tear. A direct blow could also be a cause. Elderly people can develop meniscal tears over time, as cartilage tends to weaken as we get older. Worn tissues are more susceptible to tearing, and even merely rising from a chair while twisting the knee can cause meniscal tears for an older person.
Symptoms of meniscal tears
Meniscal tears are sometimes accompanied by a popping sound. Many people are able to continue walking after a tear, and sometimes athletes continue to play with their injured knee. After a few days, though, the knee will be swollen and wrought with pain. The knee may lock or catch and you will not be able to complete a normal range of motion.
Examination of the meniscal tear
The orthopedic surgeons at Randolph Orthopedics and Sports Medicine in Asheboro NC will review your medical history and discuss your symptoms before performing a knee examination. They will check for tenderness in the meniscus area, which normally signifies meniscal tears.
Aside from physical tests, your doctor may require other tests to confirm his or her diagnosis. This will normally include an X-ray and MRI.
Treatment of the tear in your knee
The size, location and type of meniscus tear will determine your treatment. The outer third of your meniscus is rich in blood and may heal by itself or with anorthopedic surgery procedure called a meniscal repair. The rest of the meniscus has no blood supply, meaning it cannot heal itself, and must be removed by a procedure known as a menisectomy.
Smaller meniscal tears on the outer edge might not require orthopedic surgery. If the knee is stable and your symptoms subside, the RICE protocol may be prescribed. This involves Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation.
If nonsurgical treatments do not work, your Asheboro NC sports medicine doctors may suggest orthopedic surgery.
Rehabilitation and recovery for your knee
Following surgery, your knee may be immobilized by a brace. Once healing is complete, you will be prescribed rehabilitation exercises. Regaining knee mobility and strength requires regular exercise. You may be able to do this in your home, although most orthopedic surgeons suggest physical therapy.
Meniscal tears are common, and with correct diagnosis, treatment and recovery, most patients can return to a full slate of their pre-injury activities. Contact Randolph Orthopedics and Sports Medicine, your sports medicine doctors and orthopedic professionals, for more information about meniscal tears and knee pain.