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When Is Surgical Treatment the Best Option for a Meniscus Tear?

When Is Surgical Treatment the Best Option for a Meniscus Tear?

Understanding your options when you have an injury is important. At Orthocenter, our highly trained experts are careful to explain any choices you may have when it comes to treating a meniscus tear. Sometimes the best possible option is having surgery.

Your meniscus is one of the many structures that support your knee joint and allow it to function as it does. Your knee is a complex joint that makes it possible for you to sit, walk, jump, run, and do so many things you probably rarely think about. The meniscus—you have two in each knee—is a thick band of cartilage, shaped like the letter C.

The menisci in your knees function both as shock absorbers and stabilizers. Injuries to the meniscus often happen during sports, though in older people it could happen at any time. As you age, your menisci become weather and more prone to tearing. 

When a tear occurs

You might hear a popping sound when your meniscus tears, but you probably won’t have to stop what you’re doing. Athletes may even continue to play. Over a few days, though, your knee will become stiff, swollen and more painful.

You may feel like your knee catches or locks. Or, you may find that your knee feels like it’s going to give way during the normal course of your day. You most likely won’t be able to move your knee through its usual range of motion. 

Conservative treatment

Most of the time, our experts choose to begin your treatment with the most conservative treatment that is likely to work. For a torn meniscus, that would be the classic RICE protocol: Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. You may also take medication, such as over-the-counter pain relievers. 


The next level of treatment is often physical therapy. Physical therapy can help you learn exercises specifically to strengthen the structures that support your knee, so there’s extra support as your meniscus heals. 


Depending on the location and severity of your tear, surgery may be the best way for you to regain full use of your knee. In some cases, the need for surgery may be apparent early, but in others your doctor may recommend it if the other treatments don’t work.

The type of surgery your doctor suggests, again, depends on the extent of your injury. Sometimes, it’s possible to repair the meniscus, and other times it’s necessary to trim away the damaged part. More rarely, a meniscus transplant is the best solution. 

The expert providers at Orthocenter are always happy to answer your questions and discuss your options with you. If you do need surgery, you will be happy to know that it’s a common procedure with a very high satisfaction rate. Most patients regain full use of their knee within three months.

If you have questions about meniscus surgery or you suspect you have an injured meniscus, schedule an appointment at one of the three convenient locations of Orthocenter. 

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