What to Do about a Meniscus Tear

Meniscus Tear

Meniscus tears are common athletic knee injuries that can interfere with your ability to engage in normal physical activity. This article will explore what causes meniscus tears and how they can be treated. 

What causes a meniscus tear?

Three bones come together to form the knee joint: the thigh bone, the shin bone, and the kneecap. A layer of cartilage covers the space where these three bones meet to allow smooth movement of the joint. Two C-shaped wedges of cartilage protect the ends of the thigh and shin bones from rubbing against each other. These pieces of cartilage are called the meniscus.

After an injury or accident, the meniscus can tear. Common causes of a torn meniscus include

  •       Abrupt twisting of the knee
  •       Stopping or starting to move too suddenly
  •       Turning or pivoting too suddenly
  •       Putting excessive weight on the knee (squatting, kneeling, or lifting)
  •       Cartilage deterioration that gets worse with age

Many meniscus tears happen during sports activities that involve a great deal of movement and stress. Contact sports can result in meniscus tears from the extra force applied to a wrong twist. 

What are the symptoms of a meniscus tear?

Most meniscus tears are the result of injuries from sports or other high-impact activities. Common symptoms of a torn meniscus include

  •       Sudden pain in the knee
  •       Swelling
  •       Popping noise or feeling
  •       Instability in the knee joint
  •       Stiffness
  •       Tenderness
  •       Limited range of motion in the knee
  •       Difficulty walking or moving around
  •       Catching or locking the knee joint

If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, seek medical attention right away. If left untreated, a torn meniscus can develop severe complications. In some cases, an untreated meniscus tear can turn into arthritis.

meniscus injury

How is a meniscus tear diagnosed?

A doctor will typically physically examine the injured knee to identify the source of pain and range of motion of the knee. To confirm the diagnosis, an MRI may be ordered to more closely evaluate the bone structures and soft tissue of the knee for signs of a torn meniscus. An X-ray can also help examine the bones in the knee joint to look for signs of fracture or other damage from the injury.

How is a meniscus tear treated?

A torn meniscus can be treated in different ways depending on the location and severity of the tear. An orthopedic specialist will determine the exact course of treatment based on the individual case.

Some meniscus tears can heal on their own. Conservative treatments to help these tears heal include

  •       Resting and avoiding strain to the injured knee
  •       Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory pain relievers
  •       Ice to reduce swelling
  •       Physical therapy exercises that strengthen and stabilize the injured knee

In more severe cases, surgery may be necessary to repair the torn meniscus. Often, a surgical repair of a torn meniscus is performed arthroscopically. This means a small camera is inserted through a slight incision in the knee, which projects an image of the inside of the knee onto a screen in the operating room. The orthopaedic surgeon uses this image to guide narrow instruments through the incisions in the knee to repair or trim the torn cartilage.

Treating a meniscus tear with Midwest Orthopaedic Consultants

At Midwest Orthopaedic Consultants, we understand how painful and frustrating a torn meniscus can be. Our team of orthopaedic specialists and surgeons are ready to help you get back out on the field and doing what you love. You can expect innovative treatments and compassionate, experienced care.

If you suspect you may have suffered a meniscus tear, book an appointment with us today!


Only a doctor can tell you if you have this ailment. This is for informational purposes and should not be used in lieu of a doctor’s opinion.