What’s a Meniscus Tear?
The meniscus is the piece of cartilage that cushions the knee joint. Each of your knees has two menisci. Shaped a little like figure-8 cartilage lying down flat that act as a cushion between your shin bone and your thigh bone. The medial meniscus is the loop on your inseam, the side that faces your other knee. The lateral meniscus is the loop on the opposite side.
Like the ankle and hip, the knee is a joint that sees a lot of high-impact activity. It’s the meniscus that acts as a shock absorber of impact and keeps your knee joint stable and lubricated. Usually, a tear is caused by a twist in the knee, or a knee injury but sometimes repeated squatting is enough. If a bit of the meniscus rips off and gets lodged in the joint, the injured knee could lock up.
Meniscal tears are common in athletes of both contact and non-contact sports, and are especially common in older athletes, as the tissue wears out with age. Older people are not only more likely to tear their meniscus; they are also more likely to develop osteoarthritis of the knee following a knee injury.
A tear in the meniscus can be mild to moderately painful and can keep you sidelined from your favorite activities for months or even years. Some tears require surgery, but many will resolve with non- or minimally-invasive treatments. A proper diagnosis and physical examination should be made to determine the severity of meniscus tear. An MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan is the most accurate non-invasive test to confirm a meniscus tear. X-rays do not show a meniscus tear.
Meniscus Tear Symptoms
Signs and symptoms of a torn meniscus include:
- Mild to moderate knee pain
- Tenderness in the joint line
- Pain that grows worse with inflammation
- The sound or sensation of popping at the moment of injury
- Difficulty flexing and extending the knee
- The joint sticks or locks up
Types of Meniscus Tears: The “Red Zone” and the “White Zone”
Your blood vessels feed and provide oxygen to your tissues. They are also instrumental in transporting healing growth factors to sites of injury. The outer edges of your meniscus are easily accessible: and has a good blood supply. If your tear is in this “Red Zone,” it might be able to heal on its own.
A problem arises when the tear is located in the inner, “White Zone.” This zone is tucked snugly inside of the knee, choked out of the reach of life-giving blood cells. It’s very rare that a part of the meniscus tear in this region will heal on its own. Fortunately, there are some techniques we can use to help these meniscal injuries along.
Meniscus Tear Treatment
Some meniscus tears will heal with conservative, non-invasive treatment options, such as:
- The RICE method (rest, ice, compression, elevation).
- NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs).
- Physical therapy to stretch and strengthen the knee.
- Activity reduction/modification.
But some meniscus tears won’t respond to conservative measures. At this point, many people mistakenly believe that surgery is the only option. But surgical meniscus repair isn’t always successful, and even when it is, there can be an increased risk for knee arthritis, limiting your activity level.
In recent years, the field of regenerative medicine has made marvelous advances in treating soft tissue injuries. At Nuvo Spine, we specialize in minimally-invasive techniques, using living tissue from your own body to jumpstart the healing process. These techniques include:
- Traumeel Injection
- Zeel Injection
- Cortisone Injection
- A2M (Alpha-2-Macroglobulin) Injection
- Platelet-rich plasma injections – platelets acquired from your own blood promotes and stimulates your body’s natural healing response.
- Stem cell therapy – stem cells drawn from your bone marrow help your body to repair damaged cells.
If you suffer from meniscus injuries visit our office to learn what our award-winning pain management specialist can do for your quality of life and pain relief.
Call our office for your consultation today, and take the first step towards a pain-free life.