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Meniscus Tear

Meniscus Tear

What is a Meniscus Tear?

A meniscus tear is when one or both of the c-shaped pieces of cushioning cartilage in the knee joint rip, either across the meniscus horizontally, or along the meniscus vertically (known as a bucket handle tear). Tears are most often the result of twisting or wrenching the knee and are a common knee injury.

Causes | Symptoms | Treatment | Prevention

What is a Meniscus?

A meniscus is a c-shaped rubbery disc of cartilage that acts as a cushion between the femur and the tibia bones. Each knee has two menisci (plural of meniscus) one on the outside of the knee (lateral meniscus) and one on the inside of the knee (medial meniscus).

What Causes a Meniscus Tear?

medical diagram of a meniscus

Twisting, wrenching, or rotating your knee while putting your weight on it is the most common cause of a meniscus tear. Other common causes of a torn meniscus are:

  • Aggressive pivoting
  • Sudden stopping or direction changes
  • Doing deep squats
  • Lifting heavy objects

What are the Signs and Symptoms of a Meniscus Tear?

Signs and symptoms of a torn meniscus vary depending on the severity of your tear, however, in most cases you’ll hear a snap or popping sound during the injury. There are three grades of meniscal tears minor, moderate, and severe with the following symptoms:

Minor Meniscus Tear Symptoms

Symptoms usually go away in two to three weeks and include swelling and pain in the knee.

Moderate Meniscus Tear Symptoms

A moderate tear will have pain at the side or centre of your knee, swelling that gets worse over two to three days. You may have stiffness in the knee and not be able to bend it fully. Symptoms may go away in a few weeks but will return if not treated.

Severe Meniscus Tear Symptoms

In severe cases, your knee may have a catching, popping, or locking sensation when you try to move it and your knee might feel unstable or wobby and you might not be able to fully straighten it.

How is a Meniscus Tear Treated?

Simple at home remedies to treat a minor meniscus tear at home include resting the affected knee, reducing swelling with an ice pack and an elastic bandage for compression, and taking over the counter medication to reduce pain. Other treatment options include physiotherapy and in some severe cases surgery might be needed.

Physiotherapy for a Meniscus Tear

After a meniscus tear your knee may feel unstable or wobbly and might give out while walking. Physiotherapy aims to stabilize the knee by strengthening the muscles around your knee.

Will a Meniscus Tear go Away on its own?

Yes, in some cases a meniscus tear will heal on its own. However, in the case of a severe meniscus tear, symptoms can go away, but continuously return if you do not get the proper treatment.

Can you Prevent a Meniscus Tear?

Yes and no, in most cases it’s an accident that causes a meniscus tear. However, you can lower your risk of injury by:

  • Easing into new exercise routines
  • Warming up before exercise
  • Wear supportive footwear
  • Exercise regularly