Knee meniscus tear

Man with knee pain

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Meniscus tears in the knee can cause pain and limited mobility if left untreated. Your knee has three bones: the femur, tibia and patella (kneecap). Located between the femur and tibia are two crescent-shaped pieces of cartilage called meniscus. The meniscus act as shock absorbers and cushion the lower part of your leg from receiving the full impact of your body’s weight and also contributes to stability of the knee.

A knee meniscus tear can happen when you twist your upper leg and your foot remains planted in place or when you change direction quickly while running or turning. Squatting low and lifting or a direct hit to the knee can also cause a torn meniscus. This can happen during sports activities, such as football or soccer, or during everyday activities. As you age, your cartilage becomes thinner and weaker, which may make you more likely to get torn meniscus without a specific cause.

Knee meniscus tear symptoms

The meniscus often makes a popping sound when it tears. Other symptoms can include:

  • Catching or locking of your knee

  • Inability to straighten your le

  • Limited range of motion

  • Pain in the center or side of your knee

  • Sensation of your knee “giving out”

  • Swelling of the knee joint

Knee meniscus tear diagnosis

Sometimes people continue to walk or play sports with a torn meniscus. However, having the injury correctly diagnosed is essential for proper treatment and healing. Our orthopedic specialists will review your symptoms and then examine your knee to check for swelling and tenderness.

Tests for torn meniscus diagnosis may include:

  • X-ray—a type of electromagnetic radiation imaging that produces photographs of bones in the knee joint.

  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)—is a noninvasive imaging technology that produces detailed, three-dimensional images of the knee joint without the use of radiation.

Knee meniscus tear treatment

Treatment for a torn meniscus depends on the severity of your injury and your age, general health and medical history. The specialists at The Christ Hospital Health Network develop a treatment plan that takes your individual needs and goals into account. We want to get you back to your life and your activities as quickly as possible.

The first step is to stop the movement or activity that is causing the problem.

Often, the RICE method can provide relief:

  • Rest the joint

  • Ice the affected area

  • Compress the area with an elastic bandage

  • Elevate the joint

If additional treatment is needed, it may include:

  • A brace—  a device used to protect and support  an injured joint.

  • Crutches or a wheelchair—to help with mobility.

  • Limited activity—restricting movement for a period of time.

  • Medication—taken to help control pain in the knee.

  • Muscle strengthening exercises 

  • Physical therapy—therapies to help you return to normal activities without pain.

  • Arthroscopic surgery—a minimally invasive surgical procedure that repairs or removes damaged meniscus.

If you have the symptoms of a knee meniscus tear, schedule an appointment with one of the orthopedic specialists at The Christ Hospital Health Network. 

Find a knee specialist near you.