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The menisci are the shock absorbers of the knee joint. There are two menisci between tibia and the femur. When you walk or run, you are actually placing two to eight times your body weight on the knee joint. It is the job of the menisci to absorb this weight and distribute it evenly throughout the joint. As you age, your menisci lose water and elasticity. Younger people have tough menisci, and injure them in a twisting injury. The older you are, the easier it is to tear the menisci.
There are a few ways doctors administer meniscus injury treatment. Sometimes, a nonsurgical meniscus injury treatment is best, which generally involves eliminating swelling and discomfort. Patients are told to rest—staying off of the injured knee—then anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin or Tylenol can decrease pain and swelling. Some patients need only this noninvasive meniscus injury treatment. They may have to use crutches until they can walk without a limp and/or receive physical therapy.
Often, however, meniscus injury treatment is required. Severe menisci injuries in which the knee locks up and cannot be straightened out require surgery as soon as possible to repair the damage and prevent further injury. Usually, surgical treatment involves arthroscopy. The surgeon makes small incisions in the knee to insert the camera into the injured joint. One surgical option for meniscus injury treatment is a partial meniscectomy. During a partial meniscectomy, the surgeon removes the part of the meniscus that is damaged and cannot be repaired. Another surgical option is called a meniscal repair, in which the surgeon uses sutures to sew the edges of the meniscus back together. Generally meniscal repair is the preferred option for surgeons because it will allow more normal function of knee and protect the articular cartilage than if part of the meniscus is removed altogether. Meniscal repair is also more commonly used for younger patients whose menisci haven’t degenerated. The third option for surgical meniscus injury treatment is transplantation, in which part of another person’s meniscus replaces the removed meniscus. This treatment is still in the exploratory and experimental stage.
After any of these treatments, you must work hard to rebuild your strength, and be patient to let the injury heal. It is not uncommon for patients to take over eight weeks to recover enough from a meniscal injury to walk again.