Should You Walk on a Torn Meniscus?

Patient grabs knee while walking on indoor track

Will Walking on a Torn Meniscus Make It Worse? Why You Shouldn’t Ignore the Injury

Two pieces of fibro-cartilage that form a cushion between the thigh (femur) and shin (tibia) bones are called the menisci. They play an important role as shock absorbers in the knee and help disseminate forces when we are walking and active.  There are two types of meniscal tears: acute and degenerative.  Acute injuries are usually when excessive pressure is placed on the knee at the same time as twisting motion, and most often occur while playing sports. In contrast, most degenerative tears usually occur after the age of 40 and are caused when the meniscus is exposed to chronic inflammation, caused by disorders such as osteoarthritis. A torn meniscus is a very common injury and can vary in severity.

Located in Portland, Oregon; Bellevue, Washington; and Tempe, Arizona, the team at Reflex Knee Specialists is often able to diagnose a meniscal injury using ultrasound and offers non-surgical treatment options for a torn meniscus. Knee specialists are often asked if walking on a torn meniscus can make it worse. Here, we explore that question and discuss why a meniscal injury shouldn’t be ignored.

Is the Injury a Torn Meniscus?

An acute meniscus tear injury may exhibit several different symptoms. These include:

  • Swelling and pain in the knee
  • Popping sounds or clicking or grinding sensation
  • Decreased range of motion: the knee may feel stuck or locked
  • Rotating or twisting the knee causes pain

Many degenerative tears may not have any symptoms, but some present with symptoms seen in acute tears (see above).

As part of a thorough physical exam, medical practitioners will often first try to understand how the injury occurred if there was a traumatic incident. They may use diagnostic tools to further examine the knee, such as X-rays, dynamic ultrasound, or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

How to Treat a Torn Meniscus

Most meniscal tears are managed with conservative treatments and will not need surgery. The younger a patient is, the higher probability that the tear can be successfully repaired and heal following surgery.  Since blood flow to the meniscus decreases with age, the healing potential also declines. For this reason, most meniscal tears in people older than 35 are not repaired – the damaged tissue is simply excised.

Conservative treatments include using crutches or a brace to off-load the torn meniscus; a compression bandage and elevating the knee may also be recommended. Physical therapy has been shown to be just as effective as surgery and helps strengthen the knee and build stronger muscles for added support and stability. Other treatments, such as platelet-rich plasma (PRP) treatments, may be used to help reduce pain and inflammation; PRP has also been shown to promote meniscal cell proliferation, so it may help stabilize the injured area and make it less susceptible to further injury.

Is Walking on a Torn Meniscus Recommended?

After about 6-8 weeks of recovery time (using and conservative treatments like physical therapy, most people are able to walk and be active with a torn meniscus. This will depend on several factors, including the severity of the injury, the patient’s age and overall level of health, and if the knee is able to move without locking up or buckling.

Reduced activity is generally recommended following a torn meniscus, and may include using crutches if needed. An off-loading brace can help patients return to activities such as walking sooner. PRP helps jumpstart the healing process and can shorten recovery times, and high-quality physical therapy helps strengthen and stabilize the knees. If a knee specialist recommends PRP or physical therapy, they will prescribe the level of activity that works best with the therapy.

When Is It OK to Walk on a Torn Meniscus?

Do not ignore the symptoms of a torn meniscus. Continuing with normal activities may make the injury worse, take longer to heal, or require more treatments. We recommend that individuals with swelling or knee pain should make an appointment with a knee specialist to get the joint examined and have the injury or pain diagnosed and a treatment plan established. Understanding the extent of the injury and utilizing proper treatment and exercise regimes will help to get patients back on their feet faster.

Discover Non-Surgical Treatment Options for a Torn Meniscus

At Reflex Knee Specialists, we utilize diagnostic ultrasound to diagnose the cause of knee pain and then recommend a treatment plan based on the patient’s condition. With offices located in Portland, Oregon; Bellevue, Washington; and Tempe, Arizona, our providers promote non-surgical options for reducing and eliminating knee pain. Contact us today to schedule an appointment to address any knee pain you are experiencing.

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