Meniscal Tears

Meniscal Tears Q & A

What is a meniscal tear?

Your menisci are C-shaped cartilage discs that exist between the two main bones of your knee, at the end of your thigh bone and the top of your shin bone. There are two menisci. One is on the inner side of your knee, and the other is on the outer part of your knee.

Together, the menisci serve to take impacts and stabilize the joint. This protection helps minimize wear of the cartilage that lines the ends of your knee bones. The menisci also help fill other roles that assist in normal knee function and health. Wear or traumatic injuries to the knee can cause damage to this cartilage, which is known as a meniscal tear.

How do meniscal tears occur?

As we age, particularly when knee arthritis is present, degenerative meniscal tears can develop. These are tears that slowly develop from regular use over time. A common degenerative tear is a horizontal meniscal tear, or a cleavage tear, and is often seen in older patients. Degenerative tears differ from traumatic meniscal tears, which occur abruptly from a single event.

Traumatic tears are known as acute meniscal tears. These are seen most often in sports, and may be caused by squatting, twisting, or quickly changing direction while running. Acute meniscal tears commonly result alongside more significant knee injuries like ACL tears. Tears also frequently occur from a combination of trauma and degeneration. These meniscal tears often arise from subtle, perhaps imperceivable trauma, in a somewhat already degenerated meniscus.

What are the common symptoms of meniscal tears?

Degenerative meniscal tears sometimes do not cause any symptoms. Traumatic tears, on the other hand, are frequently symptomatic. A major symptom of a traumatic meniscal tear is intense pain deep in your knee or locally on one side or the other. The pain often increases with activities that require twisting or squatting. Swelling in the knee is also often present.

This swelling may lead to stiffness and pain in the back or front of the knee. Mechanical symptoms can sometimes be present as well. This category of symptoms can include clicking, catching, and sometimes even locking, in which the knee can get stuck in a bent position.

How are meniscal tears diagnosed?

Due to the distinctive symptoms, the doctors at Town Center Orthopaedic Associates can frequently diagnose meniscal tears after an examination in the office. Your physician will often obtain X-rays in order to rule out arthritis and other knee issues that share similar symptoms to meniscal tears. An MRI of your knee is sometimes needed as well. If so, our staff will help make arrangements for you to get an MRI as efficiently as possible.

What is best practice for meniscal tear treatment?

Different treatments are appropriate depending on the type of tear you have, how much it affects you, and your needs and goals. Depending on the tear type and your symptoms, nonoperative treatment, including medications and physical therapy, may be all that is needed. If so, our excellent physical therapists will help you feel better.

In other cases, your tear may require surgery. In these cases, you and your surgeon will discuss the appropriate surgery. Two options exist, either removing the torn piece (meniscectomy) or a meniscal repair. During a repair, your surgeon uses small strings (sutures) to tie the torn pieces together, or to the adjacent tissue. Your particular meniscal tear characteristics, along with your age, activity level, and other associated knee issues will help determine which surgery is best for you. Most surgery can be performed through minimally invasive arthroscopy on an outpatient basis.

No matter the surgery needed, our skilled knee surgeons are proficient in the latest and most effective techniques. You will often require physical therapy after surgery. So our surgeons and physical therapists will work together to get you and your knee feeling great again.

If you think you have a meniscal tear, don’t wait to seek the care you need. To schedule your meniscus tear consultation, call Town Center Orthopaedic Associates any time at (703)435-6604, or book online today.

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