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What's the Treatment for a Meniscus Tear? continued...

Happily, not all meniscal tears require surgery. If your knee is not locking up, is stable, and symptoms resolve, nonsurgical treatment may suffice. To speed the recovery, you can:

  • Rest the knee. Limit activities to include walking if the knee painful. Use crutches to help relieve pain.
  • Ice your knee to reduce pain and swelling. Do it for 15-20 minutes every 3-4 hours for 2-3 days or until the pain and swelling is gone.
  • Compress your knee. Use an elastic bandage or a neoprene type sleeve on your knee to control swelling.
  • Elevate your knee with a pillow under your heel when you're sitting or lying down.
  • Take anti-inflammatory medications. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), like Advil, Aleve, or Motrin, will help with pain and swelling. However, these drugs can have side effects, such as an increased risk of bleeding and ulcers. They should be only used occasionally, unless your doctor specifically says otherwise.
  • Use stretching and strengthening exercises to help reduce stress to your knee. Ask your doctor to recommend a physical therapist for guidance.
  • Avoid impact activities such as running and jumping.

These conservative treatments, however, aren't always enough. If a tear is large, unstable, or causing locking symptoms surgery may be required to either repair or remove unstable edges. The procedure is usually pretty simple, and you can often go home the same day. You may need a brace afterward for protection if a repair is performed.

For 85% to 90% of people who get the surgery for a meniscus tear, the short-term results are good to excellent. But in the long-term, people who have a large meniscal injury that is unrepairable may be at a higher risk of developing knee arthritis.

When Will My Knee Feel Better?

Recovery time for your knee depends on a number of factors, including how severe your meniscus tear is. Full recovery from surgery may take 4 to 6 weeks, depending on the type of procedure performed as well as other factors. But keep in mind that people also heal at different rates. In most cases physical therapy is used after surgery to minimize complications and speed recovery.

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