Meniscal Injury Treatments FAQs

Written by Mr Bilal Barkatali

Frequently asked questions about Meniscal injury treatments. Learn everything you need to know about meniscal injuries and their treatment.

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Table Contents

1. Can a meniscus tear heal on its own?

Meniscal tears unfortunately cannot heal on their own unless they are very peripheral in the red zone with adequate blood supply.  However, the majority of meniscal tears are not in this area and do not heal on their own.  They can be either managed with physiotherapy if they are minor or with surgery if there are major symptoms such as locking or giving way.

2. What happens if you have a torn meniscus which is untreated?

An untreated meniscal tear continues to cause symptoms within the knee.  These symptoms range from pain alone to instability and locking.  With ongoing pain, instability and locking, the leg musculature starts to become weak due to guarding and disuse.  Patients usually struggle to perform any of their activities such as jogging, running or playing sport.  It can have a significant detrimental effect on individual active lifestyles.  Some meniscal tears do settle down without surgery and these require active input from a good physiotherapist.  

3. How long does it take for a torn meniscus to heal without surgery?

Unfortunately, meniscal tears do not heal.  However, the symptoms in minor tears do settle down and around 50% of minor meniscal tears with pain only settle down in around three months.  The other 50% go on to require surgery.

4. How do you know if you have a torn meniscus in your knee?

The main symptoms of a torn meniscus are pain and a feeling of instability such as giving way and locking.  This is sometimes also associated with swelling in the knee. 

5. Is walking good for a meniscal tear?

Keeping the knee moving is the best strategy for any kind of knee injury unless it is a very serious injury.  Patients with a meniscal tear can still stand and walk but unfortunately symptoms can continue.  Minor tears do settle down with mobilisation and physiotherapy alone.

6. Will walking on a torn meniscus make it worse?

 Walking alone generally would not make a meniscal tear worse.  The main problem with walking would be ongoing pain and discomfort.  Once the meniscus becomes torn it can become unstable and exercising further with twisting and turning exercises can propagate the injury further.  However, due to pain and instability, patients generally do not perform the level of exercise required to further worsen the torn meniscus.

7. How do you treat a torn meniscus without surgery?

For minor tears which do not result in instability and locking in the knee, the best form of treatment is to keep the knee moving and to initially avoid activities that cause pain.  Regular icing, keeping a full range of movement going and elevation are the short-term treatments.  The medium and long-term treatment for this type of meniscal tear is physiotherapy. 

8. Is it worth having meniscal surgery?

Meniscal surgery is a successful treatment when performed by a specialist knee surgeon.  The decision to either repair or remove the torn meniscus depending on the type of tear, results in the best possible outcome for the patient.  This decision is made in conjunction with the patient after discussion and appreciation of the particular type of tear and the patient symptoms and circumstances.  The success rates of meniscal surgery are very high depending on the surgeon and the treatment option chosen.  Success rates are as high as 85-90%. 

9. Is meniscal surgery painful?

This depends on the type of surgery chosen.  Arthroscopic meniscectomy is generally not a painful procedure.  In meniscal repair because suturing is carried out around the knee, this can cause some postoperative pain in the short-term early recovery period.

10. Is meniscal surgery a major surgery?

No, meniscal surgery is classified as day case and non-major surgery.  It requires a general anaesthetic and the patient is usually home on the same day. 

11. How long does the surgery take?

The surgery can take anywhere between twenty minutes and forty-five minutes.  This depends on whether the meniscus is removed or repaired.

12. What is the recovery from meniscal surgery?

The recovery from meniscal surgery depends on the type of surgery carried out.  In an arthroscopic meniscectomy where tissue is removed, the recovery period is short, usually between two and six weeks back to full activity. 

 In meniscal repair, as this is a more difficult procedure and we must wait for the meniscal tissue to heal, this can take around six weeks of protected weight bearing in a brace and another six to twelve weeks of rehabilitation following this before the patient can start to return to normal activity.

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