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Can a meniscus tear heal on its own?

| Sep 27, 2019 | workers' compensation

One of the most commonly occurring knee injuries in Arizona is a meniscus tear. It can result from impact to, or twisting of, the knee during a job-related accident. According to the University of Pennsylvania, you should always receive medical treatment if you suspect a meniscus tear, especially if it is due to a work injury. While some meniscus tears can heal on their own, others require surgery. 

Altogether, you have four menisci, two in each knee. They are crescent-shaped cartilage structures that help to stabilize your knee and absorb the force of impact during activities. Cartilage is a flexible material, but under acute stress, it can tear. A torn meniscus can cause swelling, stiffness and pain in the knee joint. The torn cartilage flap sometimes gets caught in the joint and causes the knee to lock up. 

The ability of a meniscus tear to heal on its own depends on its location. The meniscus receives a supply of blood only to its outer one-third. With conservative measures like compression, elevation, ice and rest, the blood cells can help the tissue of the meniscus to regenerate. Depending on the severity, a meniscus tear on the outer one-third may require surgery to repair. In either case, however, the supply of blood is necessary to the healing process. 

Unlike the outer area, the inner two-thirds of the meniscus do not receive any blood supply. This means that tears in this area will not heal on their own, nor can surgery repair them. Instead, it is often necessary to remove the flap that remains after tearing of the meniscus. This requires an operation, usually an arthroscopic procedure.