NYU Langone specialists offer a range of non-surgical options for treating a meniscus tears. When diagnosing a meniscus tear, your doctor uses imaging tests to help evaluate the pattern of the tear and whether it might respond to nonsurgical methods.
For older adults, the injury may be the result of degenerative meniscus tissue due to general wear and tear, which your doctor sees using imaging tests. Treatments for these lacerations begin with conservative measures and include rest, ice, compression, and elevation; Medicines to relieve pain. physical therapy; Corticosteroid injections. and biological injections.
Rest, ice, compression, and elevation
Your doctor may recommend the RICE regimen — rest, ice, compression, and elevation — to treat a meniscus tear.
Resting your knee can help relieve symptoms. Your doctor may suggest using a cane for a few weeks to keep the weight off your knee and to stay away from physical activity that may have contributed to the injury.
During the first few days after a meniscus tear, applying ice to the injury and elevating your knee periodically can reduce swelling. Wearing a compression bandage may also reduce swelling. Pain relief drugs.
Anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen and naproxen can help reduce inflammation and pain caused by a meniscus tear. Acetaminophen can also help manage pain but does not reduce inflammation. Your doctor will discuss with you over-the-counter or prescription options.
After the inflammation in the joint has subsided and you can stand and walk without severe pain, doctors may recommend physical therapy to rebuild strength and flexibility in the affected knee. Physiotherapists can create a customized treatment plan that will enable you to return to your daily activities.
Strengthening the quadriceps and calf muscles and stretching the knee, thigh and calf muscles can help restore the knee’s full range of motion. Low-impact exercises, such as stationary cycling, may reduce your level of pain, improve movement, and restore function to the area around a meniscus tear. As your knee and muscle strength increases, your physical therapist instructs you to return to a more vigorous activity.
The duration of physical therapy depends on the extent of the meniscus tear. For small tears, a doctor may recommend four to eight weeks of physical therapy. For more serious lacerations, physical therapy may last for eight weeks or longer. Your doctor evaluates your progress every four weeks to determine if additional rehabilitation is necessary.
Corticosteroids are powerful anti-inflammatory medications that can relieve knee pain. Although corticosteroids injected directly into the knee do not heal a meniscus tear, they may reduce swelling and discomfort. Some people may experience long-term relief.
Your doctor may inject a small amount of anesthetic into the knee along with corticosteroids. The anesthetic provides immediate pain relief that goes away after a few hours, at which time the knee pain may return. The corticosteroid begins to work after two to three days. You can go home or go to work immediately after the injection.
Doctors usually don’t recommend multiple corticosteroid injections within a short period of time. If used too often, corticosteroids can cause side effects, including weakening of the soft tissues of the knee and deterioration of cartilage. Corticosteroids may also increase blood sugar levels and may not be an option for people with diabetes or other metabolic conditions.
Biologics and drugs derived from biological sources such as blood, bone marrow and fat cells are an emerging technology that your doctor may discuss with you as a potential complement to other nonsurgical approaches to care. These medications may help the tissues heal and reduce inflammation in your knee.
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