That catching, clicking, and throbbing pain in your knee is a constant unpleasant reminder that you need to pursue treatment for a meniscal tear. But does that always mean that a knee replacement procedure is necessary? The answer not only depends on the type, size, and location of the tear but also if you've had a prior arthroscopic surgery.
Surgical or Non-Surgical Treatment for A Torn Meniscus?
Tears that occur in the outer one-third of the meniscus may be capable of healing on their own. This is due to having a rich blood flow, supplying necessary nutrients to the area.
Conversely, the inner two-thirds of the meniscus lacks this nutrient blood supply. The torn area is commonly in thinner, worn cartilage, where the parts cannot grow back together. With this type of tear, surgical intervention is usually necessary to trim the torn areas.
An orthopedic surgeon will use arthroscopy to cut out the meniscus' torn section if surgery is indicated. However, this surgery may not completely eliminate the pain, catching, and clicking symptoms.
Can Arthroscopic Surgery Lead to Total Knee Replacement?
Arthroscopic knee surgery can help alleviate the discomfort of a tear in the short term, but it may increase your risk of osteoarthritis later on. In arthroscopy, part of the meniscus is removed. As a result, the knee has considerably less support and absorbancy. In time, osteoarthritis in the knee worsens, and the only option for successful treatment is a total knee replacement.
A study of patients with osteoarthritis who underwent arthroscopic partial meniscectomy showed that the risk of total knee replacement was 400% greater than those who received non-surgical therapies.
The resulting recommendation is that patients should seriously consider non-surgical interventions first, such as physical therapy, to treat a meniscus tear's discomfort.
Of course, should non-invasive treatments fail to alleviate discomfort, then arthroscopy must be considered for shorter-term relief.
Other Alternatives to Surgery
In addition to physical therapy, there are other non-surgical treatments to help eliminate a meniscus tear's pain, including:&
The injection of cortisone or hyaluronic acid can offer temporary relief from meniscus pain. Regenerative treatments such as platelet-rich plasma therapy may help stimulate the growth of cartilage.
Knee Unloader Brace
This brace has been an effective treatment for patients with knee osteoarthritis since it relieves stress to the knee's painful side by shifting it to the side with minimal arthritis. As a result of wearing a knee unloader brace, pain is reduced, and mobility is increased.
Oral Medicines and Supplements
Glucosamine and chondroitin supplements have shown to have positive effects on alleviating osteoarthritis discomfort. In the case of more severe pain, analgesics can be prescribed on an as-needed basis.
Eliminating pain and increasing mobility is the end goal for the treatment of a meniscus tear. However, every case is different, and you should consult with your orthopedic surgeon on the most appropriate course of treatment.
Schedule an Appointment with an Orthopedist
Contact Dr. Gustavel for a consultation to learn what treatments are most suitable for your meniscal pain.