- Orthopedic (muscles, bones, injury)>
- Knee Meniscal Tears>
- Treatment Overview
Knee Meniscal Tears Treatment Overview
First steps to consider
- Most knee meniscal tears can be treated at home.
- OTC pain relievers, lifestyle changes, and at-home strategies can reduce pain and swelling.
When you may need a provider
- Your symptoms don’t get better within 3–6 weeks of home care.
- The pain is severe, or you can’t put weight on the leg or move the knee without pain.
Go to the ER if you have any of the following symptoms:
- Your leg feels warm, tender, and painful.
- Your leg is locked in a bent position and you can’t straighten it.
The suppliers listed follow Buoy’s clinical guidelines, but listing the suppliers does not constitute a referral or recommendation by Buoy. When you click on the link and/or engage with these services Buoy will be compensated.
When to see a healthcare provider
See a healthcare provider if your symptoms don’t improve within 3–6 weeks of home treatment. The main symptoms of a knee meniscal tear are a catching or popping sensation in the knee, a feeling that the knee is locked in place when you try to move it, buckling of the leg, and sharp pain (especially when you twist the knee).
You should also see a provider if the pain is severe, the knee is locked, you can’t put weight on the leg, or move the knee without pain.
Your provider will diagnose a knee meniscal tear with a physical exam. You may be asked to walk, squat, or move your leg and knee in different positions. In some cases, you may need an MRI to confirm the diagnosis. Your provider may also order X-rays to rule out other knee problems that cause similar symptoms.
What to expect from your doctor visit
- If OTC NSAIDs haven’t relieved pain, your provider may prescribe a different NSAID, like celecoxib (Celebrex) or diclofenac (Voltaren).
- Physical therapy can help stretch and strengthen the leg muscles supporting the knee.
- For severe pain or pain that hasn’t gotten better over time, your provider may offer corticosteroid (“cortisone”) injections. The injections also reduce inflammation and swelling inside the joint.
- Surgery for meniscal tears may be recommended for locked tears, tears that don’t respond to at least 6 weeks of nonsurgical treatment, and large tears from an injury in young patients. Your surgeon will either fix the tear or remove the damaged meniscus entirely.
Prescription meniscal tears medications
- NSAIDs: celecoxib (Celebrex), diclofenac (Voltaren)
Types of providers who treat meniscus tears
- A primary care provider can treat mild to moderate symptoms.
- You may be referred to a bone specialist (orthopedic surgeon) if symptoms are severe or surgery is necessary.
- A physical therapist can work with you to stretch and strengthen muscles that support the knee and help you return to doing your normal activities.
Treating knee meniscal tears at home
Most knee meniscal tears can be initially treated at home with OTC pain relievers, lifestyle changes, and other types of home care. Meniscal tears, particularly large ones, typically don’t fully heal because there is a poor blood supply to the area, but the pain usually goes away with treatments.
- Anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) or naproxen (Aleve) can help with the pain and inflammation. You have to take them regularly for them to be the most effective. Take ibuprofen three times a day or naproxen twice a day for at least 2–3 weeks.
- Rest the leg to let it heal. Walking is fine if your pain isn’t too bad. But avoid sports and moving heavy objects.
- Do not do any twisting, pivoting, or squatting.
- Apply an ice pack for 20 to 30 minutes, 3 to 4 times a day.
- Compress the area by wrapping the knee with an ACE wrap.
- Decrease pain and swelling by elevating your leg above your heart when you rest and while applying ice.
- Wear a knee brace. A brace supports the joint and may help with pain, and knee locking and buckling.
Wellness and prevention
- Don’t dramatically increase your exercise routine. Gradually build up intensity and duration to reduce the risk of injury.
- Never try to “push through” knee pain.
- Wear the correct shoe for the sport or type of exercise you plan to do. Make sure the shoes fit properly and have good traction.