Meniscus Tear2016-10-12T12:39:55-04:00

Meniscus Tear


Meniscus Tears

A common knee injury is a tear in the meniscus. The meniscus is a rubbery C-shaped disc that provides cushion in your knees. Each knee has two menisci, one on the outer edge of the knee and one on the inner edge. Through proper diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation, it is possible to return to your pre-injury activities and activity level.

What causes a meniscus tear?

A meniscus tear is usually caused by twisting or turning quickly, often with the foot planted while the knee is bent. These tears can occur when you lift something heavy or play sports. With age, degenerative changes of the knee may contribute to a torn meniscus. Fifty percent of patients with an ACL tear will have a meniscus tear with their injury.

Symptoms of Meniscus Tear

Often a patient will feel a pop at the time of the injury. Most people can still walk on their injured knee and many athletes keep playing with a tear. Within a few days, the injured knee will gradually become stiff and swollen. Other symptoms include pain along the joint line, limited motion, catching or clicking, and locking. The knee will often not be able to straighten as the displaced meniscal tissue is trapped between the joint. A feeling of instability in the knee is common, as though it may collapse, and you may have difficulty squatting. A torn meniscus can cause the following symptoms:

  • Locking, catching
  • A popping sensation
  • Swelling or stiffness
  • Pain, especially when twisting or rotating your knee
  • Limited motion of the knee joint
  • Sharp pain at the joint line

Non-Surgical Treatment of Meniscus Tear

The treatment of a meniscus tear depends on the type of tear, location (outer edge or inner edge), severity and damage to other structures such as the ACL. Your doctor may recommend a conservative treatment approach to include rest, ice and anti-inflammatory medication. Treatment options will include:

  • Conservative management. If your tear is small or degenerative and on the outer edge of the meniscus, it may not require surgical repair. As long as your symptoms do not interfere with daily living and your knee is stable, non-surgical treatment may be all that is necessary. Non-surgical treatment includes:
    • Rest
    • Observation
    • Activity modification
    • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin and ibuprofen to reduce pain and swelling.

Surgical Treatment of Meniscus Tear

If your injury is acute and you wish to return to high-level athletics as soon as possible, surgery may become necessary. Because the meniscus facilitates load transmission, stability, shock absorption, position and movement, repair is the treatment of choice. However, most tears are not repairable. Repair is only an option when the tear is on the outer edge of the meniscus where there is still blood flow to help with healing. When it’s an inner-edge tear, with no blood flow, the damaged tissue must be removed. The majority of patients have meniscus tears that are non repairable. 

The surgical procedure for torn meniscus also called, arthroscopic meniscectomy, removes the torn portion of the meniscus. A meniscus repair involves suturing the torn portion of the meniscus together. Recovery time varies depending on the type of surgery you have. A rehabilitation program is critical to the long term outcome of the knee to include special exercises to restore range of motion, strength and mobility.

Physical therapy can help strengthen the muscles around the knee and in your legs to help stabilize and support the knee joint. Arch supports or other shoe inserts can help to distribute force more evenly around your knee or decrease stress on certain areas of the knee.

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