Why You Shouldn’t Let a Meniscus Tear Go Untreated
Our Capital Orthopaedics team is highly experienced at diagnosing and treating meniscus tears in the most effective way possible.
Can a meniscus tear heal on its own?
If you’re reading this blog, then chances are you have already been diagnosed with, or suspect that you have a meniscus tear.
That means you’ve been suffering from some or all of the typical symptoms of instability, pain in or around your knee, swelling, weakness, reduced range of motion or a catching feeling.
And you probably want to know if you can get away with leaving it untreated.
The short answer is, usually not.
The good news is that there are conservative, non-invasive and highly effective treatments for a meniscus tear that do not involve surgery. And even if you do have to have meniscus surgery, the prognosis is usually very good for healing and full recovery.
Our Capital Orthopaedics team is highly experienced at diagnosing and treating meniscus tears in the most effective way possible with the aim of getting you back to full mobility quickly, with the strength and flexibility to prevent re-injury.
For more information or to book an appointment, contact us here.
What is a meniscus tear?
The meniscus is a c-shaped, rubbery piece of cartilage that provides shock absorption in the middle of your knee joint. It can be torn as a result of a twisting, wrenching or shearing action – it’s particularly common in sportspeople who do a lot of pivoting. It can also get torn as a result of wear and tear or in an impact.
In younger people, the meniscus is more rubbery and is likely to tear cleanly. As we get older, it gets more brittle and frayed, making it more liable to tear in multiple directions.
What happens if you leave a meniscus tear untreated?
Some meniscus tears can be relatively minor, and the symptoms may disappear on their own – especially if the tear is near the outside edge of the meniscus, where there is a better blood supply.
However, if you have ongoing symptoms, it’s likely you have a deeper tear or a tear on the inner two-thirds of the meniscus.
An untreated meniscus tear can result in the frayed edge getting caught in the joints, causing pain and swelling. It can also result in long-term knee problems such as arthritis.
What treatment options are available for a meniscus tear?
The most important thing is to get an accurate diagnosis. Specialist orthopaedic surgeons will do a physical exam and use an MRI scan to assess the location and severity of the tear.
If the tear is minimal and on the outer part of the meniscus, physiotherapy can be the best treatment. You will be given a programme of exercises to build up the strength around your knee and improve mobility as the cartilage heals.
When is knee surgery the best option?
If the tear is more severe and you are very active or you have a physical job, surgery is usually recommended.
How Capital Orthopaedics can help
In some cases, the meniscus can be repaired by sewing together the torn edges. This is done arthroscopically (keyhole surgery using small incisions), so there is minimal damage to other structures of the knee.
After this operation, the meniscus continues to provide shock absorption – reducing the likelihood of knee arthritis in the future. It also increases the stability of the knee and returns to pre-injury sports.
There are drawbacks with a meniscal repair, however. In patients over the age of 40, the torn edges are likely to be frayed – and just as with frayed cloth, it is difficult to sew the fibres together effectively.
Also, recovery from a meniscal repair involves wearing a fixed knee brace 24/7 for four to six weeks, during which time, you must keep some weight off your leg.
Our surgeons may suggest a partial or total removal of your meniscus. This operation is carried out arthroscopically and you will be able to weight-bear and start rehabilitation exercises the next day after surgery.
The drawbacks of a meniscus removal are that the cushioning in your knee is gone – meaning the bones of your joint are at risk of impacting on each other, potentially leading to arthritis.
Our physiotherapists provide expert guidance and targeted programmes to ensure the muscles around your knee are built up to provide stability and help you develop the flexibility to restore full range of motion.
With the right physiotherapy, even the most active sportsperson can help avoid knee arthritis after a meniscectomy or meniscal repair.
If you have any knee pain, instability, swelling or discomfort in your knee, contact leading orthopaedic surgeon Simon Moyes and the Capital Orthopaedics team here.