The meniscus refers to the cartilage that cushions both sides of a healthy knee and provides support to keep the knee stable in the joint. When an injury occurs from pressure, force, or exertion on the knee due to any strenuous activity ranging from sports to everyday wear and tear, the meniscus can tear and cause pain, swelling, stiffness, and in some cases difficulty with fully extending the knee. Meniscus tears can range from mild to severe, and treatment will usually depend on the degree and location of the tear.
With mild tears on the outer portion of the knee, meniscus repair usually consists of applying ice and resting the knee and allowing the tear to heal on its own over time. Meniscus tears are the most common type of knee injury, and sufferers can usually return to normal physical activity once the injury has healed. Keeping pressure off the knee and in some cases physical therapy can be enough to avoid further medical treatment.
In cases where a piece of the torn cartilage has moved and is loose in the joint, it can cause increased swelling, pain, and inflammation in the knee, in which case an orthopedic specialist can opt to surgically remove the cartilage. A very common surgical method is arthroscopic surgery, a minimally invasive procedure that allows a surgeon to both diagnose the level of a knee injury and to make the necessary repairs, as with a meniscus tear.
After surgery, patients are prescribed an exercise and rehabilitation plan, and the length of the recovery period before normal physical activities can be resumed usually depends on how well the patient does in rehab.
Given that proper care and treatment are received, and that the tear is allowed to heal according to the specifics of the injury, it is usually possible to return to normal physical activity once a meniscus tear has fully healed.
Next read more about arthroscopic meniscus repair.