The meniscus is a piece of tough cartilage in your knees that provides cushion and support to your joints. These joints are important as they help provide you with the ability, and mobility, to move around. When a problem arises in your knees, such as a torn meniscus, it can drastically impact your life. This is why seeking immediate medical help is a must if you want to continue to rely on your joints and knees in the future. But what exactly is a torn meniscus, how can you recognise if you suffer from one, and how can you treat it?
The menisci are helping you to live your best life by actively distributing the weight and the pressure across your knees. This allows you to move freely. While your meniscus can tear unexpectedly when making abrupt movements, such as twisting and turning, while the foot is stationed, there are also activities that are known to increase the probability of a torn meniscus. These activities include playing sports, such as football, baseball, or soccer. Other activities that can lead to a torn meniscus are lifting heavy objects or slipping on a wet floor. Based on the extent and degree of the tear, there are three main levels of injury:
- Mild injuries. Mild injuries cause little discomfort and can be healed by taking a rest. It is recommended to rest for 2–3 weeks for your meniscus to heal, before returning to exercising.
- Moderate injuries. These are medium injuries that can cause a greater level of discomfort and can affect your ability to walk properly. But just like mild injuries, most moderate injuries can be treated by allowing the body to rest until healed.
- Severe injuries. Just like their name implies, severe meniscus injuries are painful, serious, and they usually require surgery to be repaired.
All mild, moderate and severe meniscus injuries can be acute or overuse injuries. Acute injuries are those injuries that happen suddenly and cannot be prevented. Overuse injuries, on the other hand, are the result of repetitive use of a body part. Some common signs of a torn meniscus are:
- Loss of motion range
- Locking in the knee
When left untreated, mild meniscus injuries can become severe. If this is the case you will have to deal with severe pain, surgery, recovery, and knee injury settlements.
Treating a torn meniscus
The meniscus is separated into three zones, a red one, that can heal by itself the fastest with proper rest, and two white ones that require more aggressive treatment and even surgery. Some of the simple and conservative treatments recommended for mild or moderate injuries are taking a rest, stretching, or applying ice.
However, when all these fail, surgery is needed. To ensure a fast recovery that will allow you to take back control of your life and your mobility, you do not want to put off getting the surgery. The surgery can help remove the damaged part or repair the tear.
Finally, no matter if the injury is mild, moderate or severe, you want to make sure to check for any symptoms that might signal a meniscus tear and get a medical check-up to avoid any potential damage that might be irreversible.
Ellen Diamond did her degree in psychology at the University of Edinburgh. She is interested in mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.