How is a torn meniscus treated?

A diagram of the knee, showing the lateral and medial menisci.

A torn meniscus, which is the cartilage that lines the knee, can be treated with RICE, which stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation. This treatment may be the best option for minor meniscus tears. More serious meniscus tears often require surgery. Depending on the specific tear, the age and general health of the patient, and how physically active they are, the torn cartilage may need to be repaired or replaced.

An ice pack, which can help with a torn meniscus.

The RICE method is the standard treatment for many knee-related injuries, including those involving meniscus tears. The first part of the RICE method involves resting the knee. That means staying away from him as much as possible. The patient can use crutches or a cane to get around when absolutely necessary, but staying away from the leg is best.

A person wearing a meniscus strap.

Ice is the next part of the RICE method. A patient with a torn meniscus may repeatedly place an ice pack on the knee for 20 minute intervals at a time. This can be helpful in reducing swelling. The patient may find it helpful to apply the ice pack several times a day, resting for about 30 to 40 minutes between applications. Sometimes people feel discomfort when placing ice packs directly on the skin. In this case, it may be helpful to wrap the ice pack in a towel before applying it.

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs may be prescribed to treat torn cartilage.

The next part of the RICE method involves compression. To treat a torn meniscus with compression, a person may apply an elastic bandage or bandage to the area. This can help reduce swelling and keep the area stable. It is important to avoid wrapping the injury too tightly, however. This can interfere with circulation and cause swelling below the knee to develop.

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Non-invasive therapy treatments are available for certain torn meniscus injuries.

The last part of the RICE method requires the patient to keep the knee elevated above the level of the heart. Elevating the knee whenever the patient is sitting or lying down can help reduce swelling. This treatment goes hand in hand with resting and applying ice to the knee.

A person can use over-the-counter pain relievers to manage pain from a torn meniscus. For example, a patient may choose ibuprofen, aspirin, or acetaminophen to help relieve pain. If the pain is severe, the doctor may prescribe a pain reliever.

A patient may use crutches to help keep the leg up after a meniscus tear.

If a person experiences severe pain after a meniscus tear or if the injury interferes with their normal activities, their doctor may recommend surgery. The type of surgery a person typically has depends on how damaged the meniscus is and how active it is on a daily basis. If a person is young and quite active, for example, a surgeon may replace their meniscus with donor cartilage. In other cases, surgeons may simply sew the torn pieces of cartilage back together.

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