Imagine a normal day at home, taking care of things around the house and running errands. Let’s say that while you are eating lunch, you remember that you have something upstairs in your room that you need to exchange at the store. How do you accomplish this? You would get out of your chair, stand up, walk to the stairs, climb the stairs, maybe step on a stool to reach the item in your closet, step down, go down the stairs, go out the door and turn around to lock it, possibly walk down your front steps, walk to your car, open the door, sit down in the driver’s seat, drive to the store, open the door and get up out of the car, walk across the parking lot, step up onto the curb, walk into the store, and find the department you need. Then you’d do the reverse to get back home.
Now imagine the same activities with a painful right knee. It no longer seems like a simple task, does it? Your knees are two of the hardest-working joints in your body, often bearing many times your weight depending on your activity. There are a lot of moving and working parts in your knees, and when one of those parts is injured, it can make even the simplest tasks difficult.
The menisci (plural for meniscus) are one type of these parts. If you have a torn meniscus, you may feel nothing, or you may have excruciating pain and difficulty moving your knee. Treatment can range from conservative treatment such as rest, ice, and exercise, to operative treatment such as knee surgery.
So, if you suffer from a torn meniscus, will your orthopedic surgeon recommend surgery? Let’s talk about when your doctor might recommend surgery to repair the torn cartilage, and where you can go in the Raleigh area for an expert orthopedic evaluation and treatment that gets you back to enjoying life again.
What Is a Torn Meniscus?
The knee joint comprises the lower end of the upper leg bone, or thighbone (femur), where it meets the upper end of the tibia, or the large lower leg bone. In front of this intersection is a round bone called the patella (kneecap). These bones are designed to move smoothly over each other, creating movement without limitation or pain.
The menisci in the knee actually facilitate this movement. Each knee has two of these moon-shaped pads of cartilage, called the medial meniscus and lateral meniscus, that act to enable movement of the joint and to provide shock absorbency. If one of these pads is torn severely enough, you may not be able to move your knee and you may suffer excruciating pain and/or swelling, and mechanical symptoms where the knee can catch or lock or pop as well.
While some people may not be able to identify precisely when they injured their meniscus, others will remember the exact moment that they felt the pain or sensation of popping or tearing of their knee during activity.
When Might My Orthopedic Surgeon Recommend Surgery for My Meniscus Tear?
Seeking the advice of an orthopedic surgeon, especially one who is an expert in treating knee injuries, is an important step in getting the most beneficial treatment for a torn meniscus. The need for surgery will depend on a number of variables, including where the tear is located, the severity of the tear, how you were injured, the type of symptoms you experience, whether there is any fluid collected in the joint, and whether you respond well to conservative (nonsurgical) treatment.
Doctors often try to allow your body to heal naturally through rest, immobilization, physical therapy, and exercise. However, the longer you continue to experience symptoms, the more likely surgery will be necessary.
You may experience pain or problems moving your knee right after your injury, or could develop issues over the course of several days or weeks after that. Being able to move your knee reasonably well and experiencing minimal swelling are good signs for recovery. However, other symptoms may give you an indication that surgery may be needed.
If you injured your knee by severely twisting it, and you were unable to continue moving normally after the injury, the meniscal tear may be severe enough to require surgery. If you have significant problems moving your knee, you experience locking of the knee, or you have consistent fluid buildup in your knee, surgery may be recommended.
Also, if you have tried conservative treatment but have not seen noticeable improvement within 6 weeks, you may expect a recommendation for surgery. Ultimately, your orthopedic surgeon – through examination and diagnostic testing of an MRI to evaluate the internal structure of the knee– will be your best source of information and advice as to how best to achieve normal and pain-free function of your injured knee again.
Orthopedic Knee Surgeon in the Triangle
If you suspect that you have a meniscus tear, or you are experiencing knee pain and/or swelling, seek an expert evaluation by a board-certified orthopedic surgeon who can assess your injury and recommend the treatment necessary to get you on the move again. If surgery is necessary, a torn meniscus is usually addressed with a brief outpatient procedure.
Our friendly team is here to answer your questions about knee injuries or any other problems with your bones or joints. Call the offices of Dr. Brett Gilbert today at (919) 788-8797 or you can request an appointment with Dr. Gilbert using our appointment request form, or you can self-schedule your appointment here.