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A torn meniscus results when any part of the meniscus is damaged in the knee joint. This usually occurs when your foot is planted in one specific location and the knee is twisted or forced to move in another directions. Meniscus tears can range in size and location. Many can be treated with surgery and some will even heal on their own.
The meniscus is essentially the "shocks" of your knee. This means that it helps your knee absorb weight and pressure and distribute it evenly. The meniscus is basically two crescent shaped pieces of cartilage that connect the femur and tibia. It also helps your knee move correctly by guiding the movement. The most common way to injure your meniscus is by twisting your knee when your foot is planted.
There are many causes for meniscus tears, the most common are results of activity or degeneration with age. The first and most common cause for a torn meniscus happens during physical activity or athletics. When your weight is planted and your knee twists is another direction, the cartilage in your meniscus can tear or rip. This will cause pain and swelling. The other main way that a meniscus can tear is due to age. Since the meniscus is made of cartilage, over time it becomes more brittle and is more prone to tearing. This is commonly known as a torn meniscus due to the degenerative process.
The most common symptoms of a meniscus tear are pain and swelling in the knee. This is usually accompanied by a locking of the knee joint where it is more difficult to straighten your knee. The more severe the torn meniscus the more the knee will swell and the more painful the injury will be. Sometimes meniscus injuries also cause your knee to click or feel wobbly.
The most common ways that doctors diagnose a torn meniscus is through the use of an MRI. This normally happens after a physical exam in which the doctor will examine the pain and swelling in your knee. Sometimes a doctor may also perform an x-ray or ultrasound to further understand the cause of the knee pain and swelling. IN extreme cases, doctors may need to use an arthroscopic camera to fully diagnose the injury and torn meniscus.
A torn medial meniscus refers to a tear in the medial meniscus, which is the meniscus that is located on the outside of your knee. The most common cause for a medial meniscus tear is athletic injuries, specifically in contact sports when the knee is pushed out of position. Medial meniscus tears are usually treated with surgery.
Although it will differ for every surgery and injury, general patients can expect to return to physical activity 4-6 weeks after having surgery for a torn meniscus. Sometimes there is a longer waiting period for contact sports. You also may have to wear a brace when you first begin participating in exercise and sports. For more serious tears and injuries this time may be up to 4 months.