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Knee

7 Alternative Treatments For Meniscus Tear

Meniscal tear is a common knee injury that involves severe damage to the cushioning cartilage that protects the knee joint. It can result from injury, or any activity (pivoting, squatting, etc.), that causes knees to twist aggressively. It leads to persistent knee pain and the inability to move.

Although a meniscal tear typically heals within 6 to 8 weeks, it can sometimes take weeks for you to recover completely. Additionally, the inflammation that results from injury puts you at risk of developing osteoarthritis. 

While OTC pain relievers are used medically, here are 7 methods for alternative treatment for a meniscus tear that offer symptomatic relief and increase healing.

1. Rest

Prolonged rest is the mainstay of treatment for meniscus tears. In order to fix the damaged ligaments and cartilage, doctors advise avoiding any activities that can potentially put a strain on your knees. 

Certain exercises like pivoting and deep squatting can worsen the pain and therefore. It should be avoided for at least four weeks following the injury.

Even when walking, it is important that you use a cane on the side of the injured leg, as it relieves pressure on the knees. 

2. Icing

Icing is a helpful alternative treatment for a meniscus tear and other conditions that involve swelling. Applying ice causes soft tissue around the bones to press against the veins. The low temperature reduces blood flow by decreasing vein dilation. This, in turn, lowers the amount of fluid leaking into the knees, thus, helping with swelling.

Generally, doctors recommend applying an ice cube (directly or wrapped in a thin cloth on the damaged knee) for 15 minutes at every 4-hour interval.

3. Exercise

While rest is initially advised in meniscus tear injury, you need to also exercise to ensure your knees don’t lose mobility. Here are some of the best exercises you can try as an alternative treatment for meniscus tears:

Mini-Squats

Meniscus tear exercises primarily involve training your quadriceps (muscles at the front of your thighs). Mini-squats are a great workout that engages your quadriceps without putting excessive strain on your knees. 

Position yourself on a leveled ground, with your feet apart (by about shoulder-width). Bring your buttocks towards your thighs, and only slightly bend your knees in the process. Hold the squat for as long as possible, gently bring yourself back to the original position, and repeat.

In contrast with normal squats, stop at about 15 degrees of bend to avoid hurting your knees. For better positioning and stability, you can take support against the wall.

Clams

Clams involve lying on your injured site, with your hips and feet resting on top of one another. To engage your gluteus muscles, bend your knees at 45 degrees. 

Slowly raise your top knee as much as possible without moving your feet and arms. Slowly return your knees to the original position, and repeat ten times. Do at least three sets a day.

Leg Extensions

To do leg extensions, sit down on a chair with your feet flat on the floor. Lift your right leg, and hold it straight, off the ground, until you can. Slowly lower the foot and repeat the same on the other leg. Do at least ten reps.

Hamstring Curls

The hamstrings are a group of muscles present on the back of your thighs. On a leveled floor, lie on your stomach. Straighten your legs, and rest your forehead on your arms. Lift the foot of your injured knee and slowly bring it towards your buttocks. Hold it in position for 30 seconds to a minute, and then bring it back down to the floor. Repeat the same at least ten times.

Standing Heel Raises

Standing heel raises is an exercise for your calf muscles. Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Rest your hands on a counter, and then slowly lift your heels off the floor, and extend them as much as possible. Afterward, slowly lower your heels back down. Do ten reps and at least three sets a day.

4. Cannabidiol

Cannabidiol, or CBD, is an active component of hemp plants. It is extracted from cannabis and is widely used as tablets and oils.

CBD is packed with therapeutic chemicals, which enable its dramatic anti-inflammatory action. As an alternative treatment for meniscus tears, CBD reduces swelling, tenderness, stiffness, and general joint strength.

These effects are achieved by the activation of chemicals called endogenous cannabinoids. Anandamide is our body’s natural cannabinoid, and its disintegration is associated with the exacerbation of pain and inflammation in meniscus tears and other bone conditions. 

CBD preserves anandamide, i.e., prevents its rapid disintegration. Additionally, it also controls and modulates endorphins (feel-good chemicals that work on alleviating pain. This promotes healing and is essential in preventing complications that may otherwise arise due to a meniscus tear.

CBD is easily available across the country for topical application as well as for oral intake. It does not cross the blood-brain barrier (a central nervous system component). This implies that it does not cause addiction, unlike opioid-containing pain meds that may lead to drug abuse.

Additionally, no significant side effects have yet been reported from the use of CBD. In fact, many people suffering from chronic back pain due to arthritis and other conditions reported improvement in symptoms and complete relief after using CBD.

However, it is important to mention that CBD hasn’t yet been approved by the FDA. This puts you at risk of consuming impure CBD products mixed with potentially harmful components. Therefore, it is better to do complete research and look for reviews of a seller and their products.

5. Natural Supplements and Herbs

Natural supplements and herbs are the foundation of Ayurvedic medicine. Here’s what can help as an alternative treatment for meniscus tears:

  • Aloe vera. Aloe vera contains anthraquinones which have anti-inflammatory action.
  • Turmeric. Turmeric contains curcumin, which is anti-inflammatory. It blocks an inflammatory enzyme, cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2), and thereby decreases pain and swelling in arthritis.
  • Fish Oil. Fish oil is rich in essential fats like Omega-3 and Omega-6 that regulate inflammation and prevent white blood cell aggravation, thus, improving swelling.
  • Glucosamine and Chondroitin. These two are chemicals naturally present in the body (at the level of joint), and their loss is associated with inflammation, pain, and weakening of bones. Both these chemicals are extracted from animals and packaged as pills to help heal bone injuries and diseases.

6. Cell-Based Therapy

Introduced in the 19th century, cell-based therapy (popularly known as stem cell therapy) has recently become mainstream. With a success rate of 80%, stem cell therapy has helped heal many conditions that involve failure to renew damaged body cells. 

In cartilage and other bone diseases, aggressive inflammation impairs the body’s ability to form new healthy cells to replace the damaged /dead ones. This is where regenerative medicine comes in. 

Here are the two main techniques via which stem cells are extracted for transplant:

  • MMAT. MMAT or Minimally Manipulated Adipose Tissue involves collecting healthy adipose tissue and transplanting it to the diseased site to regenerate the meniscus and healthy joints. It is called “minimal” because very little adipose tissue is excised, which does not affect the natural cushioning of body fat. 
  • BMAC. In BMAC, or Bone Marrow Concentrate, doctors extract healthy bone marrow (rich in stem cells) for the treatment of musculoskeletal disorders like arthritis.

It is important to mention that the transplant cells are preferably extracted from the patient’s own body to avoid the risk of graft vs. host disease. 

7. Platelet-Rich Plasma Therapy (PRP) Injections

Platelets are components of our blood. They are important as the first line of defense against pathogens and pathological processes. This is achieved by two mechanisms:

  • Platelets form fibrin clots (platelet plugs) that modulate the inflammatory response. They prevent the movement of cells like leukocytes and thereby reduce the aggressive inflammation that is characteristic of a meniscal tear.
  • Platelets also release 10 growth factors that regenerate damaged cells. 
  • They also attract healthy cells in the patient’s blood

Platelet-rich plasma therapy involves taking a patient’s blood, isolating platelets from it, and reinjecting those platelets at the damaged site. As an alternative treatment for meniscal tears, PRP is not only effective in limiting inflammation, but it also promotes healing, thus reducing the risk of osteoarthritis and other associated complications. 

CELLAXYS is a renowned clinic that prides itself on its team of expert physicians, as well as state-of-the-art equipment. Several patients have benefited from cell-based therapy and platelet-rich plasma injections that are offered in our outpatient department. 

After consultation and a detailed evaluation of your history and symptoms, doctors walk you through the pros, cons, and estimated effectiveness of both procedures. This helps decide which technique (PRP or cell-based therapy) is best as an alternative treatment for a meniscus tear in your case. 

 

Dr. Matthew HC Otten

Director of Regenerative Orthopedic and Sports Medicine
Fellowship-trained & Board Certified in Sports medicine
Director Angiography at Harvard Clinical Research Institute
Michigan State University Alumni

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