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Torn Between Repairing a Meniscus: March 1, 2014

When it comes to fixing a damaged meniscus, many people are torn with the decision.

“Meniscus tears are one of the most common injuries that we see of any type. In fact, arthroscopy for meniscus tears is probably one of the most common surgeries that we do,” says Dr. James Bynum, orthopedic sports medicine physician on Lee Memorial Health System’s medical staff.

A meniscus is one of two c-shaped pieces of cartilage that cushion the knee between the shinbone and thighbone. Twisting activities raise the risk of injury in athletes. Age does too. Studies find older patients may do just as well with rehab over an operation.
“Sometimes we treat it without surgery if the tears are small,” says Dr. Bynum.

So, if they’re small and not causing pain, activity modification and physical therapy is a viable option. In fact, many seniors experience a meniscus tear without really knowing it. Signs are: a clicking sound during activity, slight swelling and a vague ache throughout the day.

Compared to symptoms of an acute injury.

“Oftentimes they can tell you where it hurts with one finger pointing to one side or the other of the knee.  It’s often associated with a lot of swelling and sometimes even locking where they can’t straighten or bend the knee,” says Dr. Bynum.

Younger, active patients face a greater potential to worsen their tear by walking or playing on it, so a surgical intervention may be their best move.