What is a meniscus tear?
The meniscus is cartilage in the knee joint. Cartilage is tough, smooth, rubbery tissue that lines and cushions the surface of the joints. There is a meniscus on the inner side of the knee called the medial meniscus and one on the outer side of the knee called the lateral meniscus. They attach to the top of the shin bone (tibia), make contact with the thigh bone (femur), and act as shock absorbers during weight bearing activities. A tear is a disruption in the cartilage.
How does it occur?
A meniscus tear can occur when the knee is forcefully twisted or occasionally with minimal or no trauma. Tears can also be degenerative in nature.
What are the symptoms?
You may have pain in the knee joint. With traumatic injury there is often immediate swelling with fluid in the joint, called an effusion. It may be difficult to fully bend and straighten your leg. Your knee may lock or get stuck in one place. You may hear a snap or pop at the time of injury. Pivoting motions are painful. A chronic meniscus tear may give you pain on and off during activities, with or without swelling.
How is it diagnosed?
Meniscus tears can be diagnosed through physical examination of the knee.
Tenderness along the joint line is typically present
X-rays will not show a tear but an MRI may.
How is it treated?
In the acute stages, ice, elevation, pressure and rest are used
Use of crutches or a brace is possible in early stages
Physical therapy for decreasing inflammation, restoring ROM, and strengthening
Some tears require surgery (often followed by physical therapy)