Medial meniscus injury — do I need surgery?

Are you experiencing unrelenting knee pain with excessive stair climbing, excessive walking, running, jumping, deep squatting, standing with your knees locked or stretching your legs straight?  Recall a twisting or deep squatting motion that brought on this nagging knee pain?  Maybe you are experiencing occasional knee locking.  You may have injured your meniscus.  Maybe you’ve already had an MRI that confirmed a meniscus injury.

What is your meniscus?

Your meniscus is the cushioning between your thigh bone (femur) and lower leg bone (tibia).

So, do I need surgery to fix it?

The outer third of the meniscus has blood and neurological supply, which equates to “it can heal itself”.  This part of the tear also is responsible for your pain.  A deeper tear, though not painful at that part, can be responsible for your locking sensation (also called a bucket handle tear where the meniscus flips back on itself).  For the deeper tear, yes, chances are you may need surgery to correct the locking problem in your knee.

What is the surgical process?

Surgery involves arthroscopic removal of the tear.  Consult the picture above and picture that tear simply removed.  With some of your cushion gone (meniscus material removed), your knee has to re-learn its balance act between your femur and tibia (proprioception).  Without the original amount of cushion in your knee (structural support), you need to increase your muscular strength to optimize your proprioception and overall function of your knee during activity to slow down the inevitable wear and tear on the underlying, now exposed, bone.

Conservative or post-surgical care at Shallyn’s Physical Therapy and Wellness Services.

At Shallyn’s, you will be taught how to turn on your quad again.  A normal functioning quad contributes 50% of normal function of your knee…anytime!  This may be through specific exercise or a combination of neuromuscular electrical stimulation and exercise…for the more stubborn quadriceps out there.  You will be instructed on safe range of motion for your injury/healing post-surgical knee.  If you decide to forego surgery (you’re not having locking), you may be encouraged to unweight the knee temporarily through the use of a cane or crutch, avoid excessive stair climbing, pause in your walking or running routine and trade it for a bike for a little while, and rebuild your balance (proprioception) through dynamic exercise instruction.  Ultrasound can provide deep heat to your knee joint and encourage circulation for quicker healing of your material.

If you continue to have questions about your specific knee injury, or would like to schedule an appointment, please contact Shallyn’s Physical Therapy and Wellness Services at
719 433 3057.  Here’s to getting back to being comfortable on your feet again!

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