When it comes to knee injuries, ACL tears seem to get all of the attention. But meniscus tears are also very common, with an estimated 850,000 cases occurring every year in the United States.
While some meniscus tears can be treated conservatively, others require surgery to restore healthy joint function. The team at LA Orthopaedic Specialists helps patients in Downtown Los Angeles get the custom treatment they need to repair meniscus damage and regain normal use of their knees.
Here’s why it’s never a good idea to ignore a torn meniscus — even if it’s “only a minor tear.”
Knee anatomy 101
Everyone knows the knee is where the upper leg bone (the femur) and lower leg bones (the tibia and fibula) meet. But there’s a lot more to the knee than those three bones. Each knee joint includes tendons, ligaments, muscles, and other structures, including two rubbery components called menisci.
Each meniscus is shaped like a C. The lateral meniscus is located on the outer side of the knee joint, while the medial meniscus is located on the inner side of the knee.
Together, the menisci act like tiny shock absorbers for your knee, absorbing some of the impact when you step or put pressure on the knee. They also improve knee stability and help facilitate smooth joint movement.
The menisci are sandwiched between the surfaces of the larger knee bones (the femur and tibia). The bones are coated with a thick layer of cartilage, which also helps the joint move smoothly.
A meniscus tear interferes with the normal movement of the knee, and without treatment, you can wind up with serious, lifelong problems.
Prompt care is critical
With a minor meniscus tear, you might find you can still use your knees for many of your regular activities. But that does not mean you can ignore the tear or let it go untreated. Why? Because even a mild tear can wind up causing a cascade of other problems with your joint, and over time, you can develop permanent knee disability.
Even a mild tear can cause pain in your knee, especially during certain activities. If you have a torn meniscus, you’ll probably find that some of your activities are limited, including many sports and other physical activities.
Increased risk of osteoarthritis
Because of where they’re located, the menisci take pressure off the cartilage layer that protects the surfaces of your knee bones. A torn meniscus can’t provide that same level of protection, which means your cartilage is exposed to a lot more wear and tear.
Over time, an untreated meniscus tear can lead to knee arthritis, a chronic, degenerative problem that can cause a lot of pain and interfere with many of your usual activities.
Increased risk of fragmentation
When you have a meniscus tear and you continue to use your knee for bending, flexing, and all sorts of activities, there’s a much higher chance that the meniscus or even the cartilage layer can become fragmented.
Eventually, tiny fragments can get into the joint “mechanism,” causing more serious problems that require complex surgery to treat.
Don’t delay care
Meniscus tears can vary greatly, and that means treatment needs to vary too. At LA Orthopaedic Specialists, our team works with you to create a treatment plan that’s based on your unique needs and goals, so you can enjoy optimal health and function for years to come.
If you’re having any type of knee symptoms, including pain, instability, or reduced range of motion, don’t put off treatment. Call our office or use our online form to schedule an appointment to reduce your risks of more serious knee problems later on.