Share this page

Health Library

Meniscal Tear(Torn Meniscus)
Definition

A meniscal tear is a tear in the meniscus. The meniscus is cartilage, which acts as a shock-absorbing structure in the knee. There are two menisci in each knee, a medial one on the inside, and a lateral one on the outside.

There are different types of tears depending on the location and how they look. Treatment depends on the severity of the tear.

Torn Meniscus

Nucleus factsheet image

Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Causes

Most injuries to the meniscus are caused by trauma. This usually includes compression and twisting of the knee. Because the aging process tends to break down the inner tissues of the meniscus, minor trauma can injure the meniscus in an older adult.

Risk Factors

Factors that may increase your risk of a meniscal tear include:

  • Participating in contact sports
  • Poor techniques for jumping, landing, pivoting, and cutting
  • Increased age
  • Previous knee injuries
  • Obesity
Symptoms

Symptoms may include:

  • A popping sound at the time of the injury
  • Pain and swelling in the knee
  • Tightness in the knee
  • Locking up, catching, or giving way of the knee
  • Tenderness in the joint
Diagnosis

You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.

Your knee may need to be viewed. This can be done with:

Treatment

Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Recovery time ranges depend on the severity of your injury. Treatment steps may include:

Acute Care
Rest

Your knee will need time to heal. Avoid activities that place extra stress on the knee:

  • Do not do activities that cause pain. This includes running, jumping, and weight lifting using the legs.
  • Do not play sports until your doctor has said it is safe to do so.

Your doctor may recommend a knee brace to stabilize the knee, and crutches to keep extra weight off your leg.

Cold

Apply an ice or a cold pack to the area for 15-20 minutes, four times a day, for several days after the injury. Do not apply the ice directly to your skin. Wrap the ice or cold pack in a towel.

Pain Relief Medications

To manage pain, your doctor may recommend:

  • Over-the-counter medication, such as ibuprofen or naproxen
  • Prescription pain relievers
Compression

Compression can help prevent more swelling. Your doctor may recommend an elastic compression bandage around your knee. Be careful not to wrap the bandage too tight.

Elevation

Elevation can also help keep swelling down. Keep your knee higher than your heart as much as possible for the first 24 hours or so. A couple of days of elevation might be recommended for severe sprains.

Recovery Steps
Physical Therapy

Your doctor may refer you to a physical therapist. The therapist can help you control discomfort and regain function.

Heat

Use heat only when you are returning to physical activity. Heat may then be used before stretching or getting ready to play sports to help loosen the knee joint.

Stretching

When the acute pain is gone, start gentle stretching as recommended. Stay within pain limits. Hold each stretch for about 10 seconds and repeat six times. Stretch several times a day.

Strengthening

Begin strengthening exercises for your legs as recommended.

Surgery

Repair or removal of all or part of the damaged meniscus may by performed. This is usually done through small incisions of the skin. A camera and special tools are inserted through the incisions.

Prevention

To reduce your chances of a meniscal tears, take these steps:

  • Maintain proper technique when exercising or playing sports.
  • Wear appropriate footwear for your sport and playing surface.
  • Strengthen both the quadriceps and the hamstrings.
  • Consider wearing a knee brace for sports.

RESOURCES:

American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
http://orthoinfo.org

American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine
http://www.sportsmed.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Canadian Orthopaedic Association
http://www.coa-aco.org

Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation
http://www.canorth.org

References:

Knee sprains and meniscal tears. Merck Manual for Health Care Professionals. Available at: http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/injuries_poisoning/fractures_dislocations_and_sprains/knee_sprains_and_meniscal_injuries.html. Updated August 2013. Accessed February 28, 2014.

Meniscal tears. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00358. Updated February 2009. Accessed February 28, 2014.

Meniscal tears in athletes. American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine. Available at: http://www.sportsmed.org/uploadedFiles/Content/Patient/Sports_Tips/ST%20Meniscal%20Tears%2008.pdf. Published 2008. Accessed February 28, 2014.

Meniscus tears. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated February 13, 2014. Accessed February 28, 2014

Torn meniscus. John Hopkins Medicine website. Available at: http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/healthlibrary/conditions/adult/orthopaedic_disorders/torn_meniscus_85,P00945/. Accessed February 28, 2014.



Last reviewed February 2014 by Teresa Briedwell, PT, DPT

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

Baptist Flame

Baptist Health Systems

Find A Doctor

Services

Locations

Baptist Medical Clinic

Patients & Visitors

Learn

Contact Us

Physician Tools

Careers at Baptist

Employee Links

Online Services

At Baptist Health Systems

At Baptist Medical Center

close ×