Meniscus Tear

The medial and lateral menisci are extra layers of cartilage tissue in the knee joint. They help to lessen the everyday pressure that the upper leg puts on the lower leg; this pressure is increased during high impact sporting activities such as jumping and sprinting. The menisci also assist in maintaining the knee's steady movement and general stability. Injury to a meniscus can cause irritation and reduce your ability to partake in physical activities until it has healed.


Symptoms of a meniscus tear are dependent on the specific incidence of tear, with some forms of the injury occurring asymptomatically. The most common symptoms, however, are pain, inflammation and reduced knee movement. The pain may be exacerbated when straightening your leg, and in some cases it can be so severe as to make walking difficult. Swelling will be present within the first few days, and can remain for months depending on the cause of the injury. It might be impossible to fully straighten your knee joint, and it can become locked in position.


These tears are regularly caused while playing sports. This can result from carrying out a vigorous knee motion (such as twisting) while your body or another force is simultaneously maintaining heavy pressure on the leg. A common movement that provokes a meniscus tear is rotating the knee, on a stationary leg, while hitting a tennis ball. Other sports often associated with movements causing the injury include football, skiing and rugby. When the tear is not caused by a single incident, it is likely to be related to degeneration or the build up of multiple, smaller injuries to the area.

Medical Treatment

Occasionally an injured party's symptoms disappear with rest and without medical treatment; however it is important to see a doctor because many more meniscus injuries require attention before they can successfully heal. The area is prone to poor healing due to the lack of blood supply to the middle of the cartilage.

A doctor will conduct a physical exam and might take an x-ray or similar scan. When diagnosed you will then be advised to rest the affected leg until the pain diminishes, and to ice the area a few times per day to reduce pain and swelling. Anti-inflammatory medication can also be beneficial if approved by your doctor. A bandage may be necessary to compress the area and you should keep the leg elevated for at least the first few days.

Medical treatment will vary depending on the scale and severity of the meniscus tear. Conservative methods and physical therapy to stretch and strengthen the knee are often sufficient for milder injuries, but surgery (arthroscopy) is sometimes recommended for major tears which show few signs of recovery after a number of weeks. After surgery it is necessary to undergo a program of gradual physical therapy to maintain movement in the area.

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