Torn Meniscus

What is a Torn Meniscus?

A torn meniscus is a common knee injury. Twisting or rotating your knee with force, like in many sports, can cause a torn meniscus. Sometimes, kneeling, squatting, or lifting something heavy can tear the meniscus. In older people, normal wear and tear on the body can be part of the reason for a torn meniscus.

Each knee has two menisci, cartilage that cushions the area between your shinbone and your thighbone. The menisci help keep the knee stable. (Cartilage is tough but flexible tissue).

A torn meniscus stays connected to the front and back of the knee if it’s small. A large tear can leave the meniscus hanging by a thread of cartilage. How serious a torn meniscus is depends on where the tear is and how big it is.

What Are the Most Common Symptoms of Torn Meniscus?

  • Pain, especially when you twist or rotate your knee.
  • Swelling.
  • Stiffness.
  • Trouble fully extending your knee.
  • Feeling like your knee is popping.
  • Feeling like your knee is locked in place.

What Are the Treatments for Torn Meniscus?

Treatment focuses on relieving pain and healing the torn meniscus. It usually starts with:

  • Rest to let the meniscus heal.
  • Ice to reduce pain and swelling.
  • Pain medicines: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or acetaminophen:
    • NSAIDs like ibuprofen (e.g., Advil and Motrin) help relieve pain and reduce inflammation.
    • Acetaminophen (Tylenol) relieves pain.

Sometimes these treatments relieve the pain of a torn meniscus and give the injury time to heal on its own.

Other treatments are:

  • Physical therapy to strengthen the muscles around your knee and in your legs, and help stabilize and support the knee joint. This can be used as a treatment or to get stronger after surgery.
  • Arthroscopic surgery to repair or trim the torn meniscus. Done through a few small incisions, this minimally-invasive surgery helps you heal faster and with less pain.