A meniscus tear is an injury sustained to your meniscus, which is a part of your knee. These tears are extremely common. Unfortunately, however, unlike some other very common injuries, some meniscus tears never heal. While the large majority do, it’s essential that you know if your tear is particularly severe, then it could not heal (or could take much longer to heal). It is possible to have a meniscus tear repaired surgically, though.
This post will explore meniscus tears and how long they take to heal in greater detail:
What Are Meniscus Tears?
Your knee is formed by three bones. It is a very tough joint but isn’t especially flexible. Because of the knee’s lack of flexibility, it can become injured if you try to rotate it too much. Your meniscus is the wedge-shaped cartilage that cushions the bones in your knee, and there are two in each knee. It is very common for practitioners of contact sports to tear their meniscus. It’s also common for people who are involved in sports or exercises that require squatting, changing positions quickly, and twisting to tear their meniscus.
How Do You Know If You’ve Torn Your Meniscus?
You will know immediately after you have torn your meniscus. The initial tear is accompanied by a popping sensation, that gives way to intense pain. The pain can then get worse if you put pressure on your knee. If you put too much pressure on it, then it can lead to you fainting. Swelling, stiffness, and the feeling that your knee is locking in place or catching when you bend it are also to be expected. Untreated meniscus tears can, unfortunately, result in your meniscus coming loose and slipping into the joint, which can interfere with your knee’s function. Also, untreated tears can cause things like arthritis to become manifest.
Recovering from Meniscal Tears
Whether or not your meniscal tear heals on its own depends upon where the injury has happened and how large it is. It’s also worth noting that your age, fitness level, and health will all factor into whether or not your body can heal itself. Meniscal tears that take place in the outer part of the meniscus often can heal on their own, because the outer part of the meniscus has a very good blood supply. With that said, it’s only likely that your body will be able to heal itself if the meniscal tear is small.
Unfortunately, the inner parts of the meniscus do not have a good blood supply going into them, which means that they can’t heal on their own. The lack of blood vessels means that the body can’t send nutrients there to heal the tear. It is always good practice to visit a doctor after any sports-related injury. If you have had a meniscal tear, they will be able to tell you exactly where in your knee the injury has taken place, and whether or not you will need surgery.
Having Surgery Performed
As mentioned in the previous section, if your meniscal tear has taken place in the inner part of the meniscus, then you have no option other than to have surgery performed. If you choose not to have surgery, then the injury can become a lot worse and could result in complications like arthritis becoming manifest. The surgery to have your meniscus repaired is very straightforward and is performed regularly, so you do not have to worry about complications. The surgery is called arthroscopic meniscal repair, and there is a wealth of evidence about it online. It’s worth conducting a little research into it before reaching out to a surgeon so that you know what to expect.
As with all types of surgeries, there is always the risk of post-surgical infection. Most doctors will prescribe strong antibiotics after a surgery of this nature so that any bacteria or germs are killed and aren’t able to cause an infection. If you are concerned about infection or any other complications (which again, you don’t need to worry about), then it is a good idea to reach out to the surgeon who will be performing your procedure and ask for their advice.
Treatment for Non-serious Tears
If you have had a meniscus tear that’s not serious and that your doctor suspects will heal on its own, then they will prescribe you painkillers and order you to get some rest. If you try to get out and get active again too soon, then the tear can become worse and you could end up needing surgery. In order to diagnose whether or not your tear warrants surgery, your doctor will perform an X-ray. This will likely be performed at your local hospital, though if your doctor’s surgery has an X-ray suite, then they will perform it there for you.
As with any injury, it’s important to put ice on it, let it rest, and not put too much pressure on it. You will also need to elevate your leg, as this aids the healing process. It’s also worth noting that you will need to take anti-inflammatories so that the inflammation around your knee subsides. Inflammation will cause your knee to swell up, which can be very uncomfortable. Your doctor may put a cast around your knee to protect it, depending on the injury’s seriousness.
Preventing Meniscal Tears
If you have not yet had a meniscal tear, then there are some very effective ways that you can prevent them from happening. One of the main ways is to strengthen your legs so that they aren’t weak. Exercises like squats, rowing, and cycling can help to strengthen your legs. Running and regular brisk walks can help, too. If your knee is unstable, then wear a leg brace. You should also try to warm up before exercise, not rushing into vigorous exercise too quickly. If you do not warm up then your joints can be stiff. Stiff joints are more prone to damage.
Meniscus tears can put you out of action for quite a while, which likely isn’t something that you will want if you are a professional athlete or just enjoy sports. Do whatever you can to avoid this, but if it does happen, then seek out professional treatment.Can You Fully Recover From a Meniscus Tear? Here’s What You Should Know