A meniscus tear is a
common knee injury. The meniscus is a rubbery, C-shaped disc that cushions your
knee. Each knee has two menisci (plural of meniscus)—one at the outer edge of
the knee and one at the inner edge. The menisci keep your knee steady by
balancing your weight across the knee. A torn meniscus can prevent your knee
from working right.
A meniscus tear is
usually caused by twisting or turning quickly, often with the foot planted
while the knee is bent. Meniscus tears can occur when you lift something heavy or
play sports. As you get older, your meniscus gets worn. This can make it tear
There are three types of
meniscus tears. Each has its own set of symptoms.
minor tear, you may have slight pain and swelling. This
usually goes away in 2 or 3 weeks.
A moderate tear can cause pain at the side or center of your
knee. Swelling slowly gets worse over 2 or 3 days. This may make your knee feel
stiff and limit how you can bend your knee, but walking is usually possible.
You might feel a sharp pain when you twist your knee or squat. These symptoms
may go away in 1 or 2 weeks but can come back if you twist or overuse your knee.
The pain may come and go for years if the tear isn't treated.
severe tears, pieces of the torn meniscus can move into
the joint space. This can make your knee catch, pop, or lock. You may not be
able to straighten it. Your knee may feel "wobbly" or give way without warning.
It may swell and become stiff right after the injury or within 2 or 3
If you are older and your meniscus is worn, you may not know
what you did to cause the tear. You may only remember feeling pain after you
got up from a squatting position, for example. Pain and slight swelling are
often the only symptoms.
Your doctor will
ask about past injuries and what you were doing when your knee started to hurt.
A physical exam will help your doctor find out if a torn meniscus is the cause
of your pain. Your doctor will look at both knees and check for tenderness,
range of motion, and how stable your knee is. X-rays
are also usually done.
You may need to meet with an
orthopedic surgeon for more testing. These tests may
MRI, which can give a clear picture of where a tear is
and how serious it is.