How Do I Manage My Knee Meniscus Pain?

The meniscus is a piece of cartilage that provides a cushion between your femur (thighbone) and tibia (shinbone). There are two menisci in each knee joint.

These can be damaged or torn during activities that put pressure on or rotate the knee joint. Taking a hard tackle on the football field or a sudden pivot on the basketball court can result in a meniscus tear.

You don’t have to be an athlete to get a meniscus tear, though. Simply getting up too quickly from a squatting position can also cause a meniscal tear.

Depending on the severity of your injury, treatment options can vary from at-home remedies to outpatient rehab and surgery. You can help prevent this injury by doing exercises that’ll strengthen your leg muscles and using proper techniques during contact activities or sports.

Causes of a Meniscus Tear

The meniscus can be torn during activities that cause direct contact or pressure from a forced twist or rotation. A sudden pivot or turn, deep squatting, or heavy lifting can lead to injury. Many athletes are at risk for a meniscus tear.

Sports that require sudden turns and stops may put you at higher risk for meniscus tears. Some of these sports include:

The meniscus weakens with age, they are more common in people over the age of 30. Movements like squatting or stepping can lead to injury in someone with weak menisci.

If you have osteoarthritis, you’re at higher risk of injuring your knee or tearing your meniscus.

When an older person experiences a meniscus tear, it’s more likely to be related to degeneration. This is when the cartilage in the knee becomes weaker and thinner and as a result, it’s more prone to tear.

Symptoms of a Meniscus Tear

You may also experience a slipping or popping sensation, which is usually an indication that a piece of cartilage has become loose and is blocking the knee joint.

Treating a Meniscus Tear

Initially, you should treat the knee injury with conservative techniques that include rest, ice, compression, and elevation, or the RICE method:

Your doctor might also prescribe medication such as ibuprofen, aspirin, or any other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to reduce pain and swelling around your knee.  You shouldn’t put your full weight on your injured knee if it’s painful.

Your doctor may recommend physical therapy to strengthen the muscles surrounding your knee.  Your physical therapist can help reduce pain and increase your knee mobility and stability. Your physical therapist may also use various techniques to reduce swelling and stiffness, helping to improve function.

An interdisciplinary approach between the rehabilitation team and your doctor will be taken to decide whether to manage your symptoms conservatively or through surgery.

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