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Meniscus 101

If you’ve torn your meniscus, you know that it hurts–a lot! But beyond the aches and pains is something more complex. Knees in general are complicated mechanical structures, and if you are about to undergo a meniscus repair, it’s important to me that you fully understand the work that will be done and how it impacts your knee health. While I will discuss these things in greater detail with you in my New York private office prior to your surgery, here are some basics about the meniscus to help you better understand your situation.

The meniscus is key to a knee’s function

The meniscus is flexible cartilage actually made up of two separate menisci. One rest on the outer edge of the knee, and one rest on the inner edge. Together, they team up to balance the weight placed on your knee and help you walk, run, and otherwise move. Despite its durability, the meniscus is prone to tearing.

There are different levels of meniscus injuries

All meniscus injuries are painful, but there are key differences in their severity. A tear is one of the most common, and therefore well-known, types of meniscus damage. Tears are typically caused by overuse or a traumatic injury. In some cases, like when the tear occurs in the outer edge of the meniscus, the body may be able to heal the injury itself. However, surgery is typically the recommended way to repair a tear. Conversely, a degenerative meniscus tear involves the gradual breakdown of cartilage. In this situation, surgical procedures are not the only way to get relief; over-the-counter pain relievers or cortisone injections are options to relieve aching. An MRI can confirm the extent of your injury and help determine the best treatment plan.

An arthroscopy offers minimally invasive relief

It used to be that patients would question whether going through with a meniscus repair surgery was worth the potential for pain that would accompany it. That all changed with the advent of arthroscopies. Today, thanks to the assistance of minimally invasive tools and camera technology, if a surgery is needed for repair, we can make a small incision in the affected area, operate as needed, and sew up the opening, leaving behind little scarring and decreasing recovery time. At the end of a procedure, you can even watch the video footage of your surgery.

Most patients are able to return to their pre-injury function

A full recovery from a meniscus repair is completely possible if you adhere to the instructions provided by your physical therapist. This will include a gradual increase in weight-bearing exercises, moderate activity like walking on a treadmill, and a series of stretches to build up the muscle in your knee. After just a few months, and assuming there are no complications during your procedure, you should be back to your normal routine, whether that means participating in your favorite sport, chasing around your grandchildren, ballroom dancing, or even hiking breathtaking trails.

A meniscus injury can be quite painful and keep you from doing things that you enjoy. Don’t hesitate to seek treatment.

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