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Treatment for a Meniscus Tear

One of the most common knee injuries involves tearing of the Meniscus muscle. These tears can result from either traumatic injury or degenerative changes, and can occur at any age – although usually in athletes. Some people often refer to tearing of the meniscus as cartilage on the knee.

Tears can be of complete or partial thickness.  Traumatic tears result from weight-bearing rotational forces to the knee and tend to occur more in the medial meniscus than the lateral meniscus. 

Degenerative tears can occur in any one over the age of 30 and are result of repetitive loaded weight-bearing combined with rotational forces such as lifting heavy objects and rotating or sports such as basketball or tenderness.  These are often asymptomatic until a rotational force is added onto a weight-bearing knee.meniscul tears

Symptoms include pain along the joint line with tenderness in the same area.  There may be delayed swelling or mechanical symptoms such as catching or giving out.  True locking of the knee however is rare, but when it does occur it is an orthopedic emergency.  The pain is usually worse with flexing, and can limit functional activities.

Treatment should begin with rest, ice, compression and elevation.  Crutches may be needed initially with progression to walking as tolerated.  Anti-inflammatory medication for 2-3 weeks may be appropriate.  Gentle range of motion is then begun followed by quadriceps strengthening exercises and functional progression as tolerated.  Functional progression should include whenever specific activities or sports individual is participating in before. 

 For competitive athletes, imaging with MRI may be performed earlier.  In recreational athletes or sedentary individuals, rehabilitation can be initiated without imaging.  Athletes can return to play if there is no more than mild swelling and discomfort as long as there is full range of motion and equal strength on the affected knee as the unaffected knee.  They should be able to perform functional testing at 85-90% of their pre-injury level without more than mild discomfort.



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Category: Injuries

Christopher Burton, M.D.

About the Author ()

Christopher Burton, M.D. is a physician, speaker, coach and trainer, practicing in Pensacola, FL. He specialized in Physiatry - Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PM&R), which is the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of conditions - particularly those of the musculoskeletal and nervous systems - that may produce temporary or permanent impairment of function. In addition to his practice, he actively lectures on health, nutrition and exercise for healthcare groups, colleges, schools and travels internationally discussing treatment and rehabilitation of athletes.

If you would like to learn more about Dr. Burton you can view his personal website at:

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