Torn Meniscus - The 16 Most Frequently Asked Questions

FAQ Diaries (Part 3): Torn Meniscus – The 16 Most Frequently Asked Questions

torn meniscus
Contributed by: Rachana Arya


Have you been diagnosed with torn meniscus? If so, now what?

Here is some important information you need to know about the condition to help you understand where the tear is located, what caused the tear, what type of tear it is, and how severe it is, plus your symptoms, and interventions required. 


FAQ #1: What is torn meniscus?

The most commonly treated knee ailments are meniscus tears. The menisci, also referred to as “shock absorbers,” keep your knee stable by balancing your weight evenly across the knee. In this injury, the forceful twisting causes certain tissue in the knee to tear.


FAQ #2: What causes the meniscus to tear?

A meniscus tear is usually caused due to :


    • Twisting or turning quickly
    • Lifting something heavy 
    • Traumatic injury from playing sports. 
    • Degenerative processes


FAQ #3:  What is the location of the pain from a torn meniscus?

Depending on where the tear is, a typical moderate tear may cause localized pain at the side or at the center of the knee. Swelling in the knee normally increases over 2 to 3 days, making the knee rigid and restricting bending. When twisting or squatting, there is often a sharp discomfort.


FAQ #4: Can a torn meniscus heal itself?

Some individuals falsely believe that meniscus tears will heal on their own given enough time. However, there are several types of meniscus tears — and not all tears will heal on their own without treatment. If the tear is on the outside third of the meniscus, it may mend on its own or require surgery to fix.


FAQ #5:  What are the common signs and symptoms that indicate a torn meniscus?

Symptoms of a meniscus tear differ from person to person, but some of the most common symptoms for all patients suffering from torn meniscus include:


    • Pain in the knee joint – usually on the inside, outside, or back of the knee
    • Catching or locking of the knee on bending
    • Audible popping sound 
    • Tearing sensation in the knee
    • Swelling, tightness, and/or stiffness in the knee
    • Limitation in range of motion in the knee


FAQ #6: Can you still walk with a torn meniscus?

A torn meniscus in the knee usually causes localized pain. The pain is frequently exacerbated by twisting or squatting motions. Many persons with a torn meniscus can continue with their daily activities without feeling much pain until the time the tear locks the knee.


FAQ #7: Is heat or cold better for a torn meniscus?

An excessive amount of cold will maintain your injury in the same state, hindering the healing process. Chronic injuries can often linger even longer as a result of this. When you have a persistent, tight, or stiff meniscus injury, heat (Circulation Boost) should be utilized after you’ve reduced swelling, discomfort, and inflammation with cold.


FAQ #8: Is a compression sleeve better for a torn meniscus?

If you have arthritic knees or a degenerative disease, compression sleeves are often the ideal knee brace for a torn meniscus. They’re also an excellent option for an athlete who is nearing the end of his or her rehabilitation and needs compression therapy to relieve pain and promote faster healing.


FAQ #9: Can a knee brace help with a torn meniscus?

Knee bracing can definitely be used as part of a non-surgical treatment plan for less severe acute tears and as a long-term treatment for degenerative meniscus tears, especially when osteoarthritis is present. Remember that wearing a knee brace is simply one component of a non-surgical treatment plan.


FAQ #10: What are two treatments to heal a torn meniscus?

The good news is that most symptoms can be eased with 4 to 8 weeks of conservative forms of treatment — rest, ice, and medication — thereby avoiding surgery. However, in other cases, when the tear is in the inner layer of the meniscus which lacks blood flow, it may need to be removed surgically.


FAQ #11: Can a torn meniscus be left untreated?

Since most people are able to stand and walk with slight pain, it makes them think a meniscus tear is a minor injury.  A meniscus tear can get really worse when left untreated. It can increase in size, limit your daily activities, speed the onset of osteoarthritis, and create a slew of other unpleasant symptoms.


FAQ #12: Does a torn meniscus hurt constantly?

Yes, most all meniscus tears will hurt. But the pain may or may not be constant. For some, it can be sharp while for others it can just be a constant dull ache sensation. It usually hurts more when you bend the knee deeply or straighten it fully.


FAQ #13: How long does a torn meniscus take to heal?

If the meniscus tear is managed conservatively, recovery will take about 6 to 8 weeks. Depending on the nature and degree of the tear and your physical activity, the length of healing time varies.


FAQ #14: Can you fully recover from a meniscus tear?

A small tear in the meniscus often heals on its own, while others may require arthroscopic surgery. Most people can expect to fully recover from a torn meniscus and can get back to doing their pre-injury activities without knee pain.


FAQ #15: What exercises should be avoided if you have a torn meniscus?

As a rule, it is better to avoid any activity or workout that requires quick changes of direction. High impact exercises should certainly be avoided. Riding a stationary bike can be incorporated into your meniscus tear exercise program. Walking and swimming are fine. But running with a torn meniscus will only exacerbate the injury.


FAQ #16: What type of doctor should you see for a meniscus tear?

The initial diagnosis of meniscus tear may be made by a primary healthcare provider. The patient is often referred to an orthopedic surgeon to either help with the diagnosis or to help with treatment options.


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