Knee Meniscus Tear


The meniscus is a cushion-like structure that lies between the thigh bone (femur) and shin bone (tibia). The function of the meniscus is to reduce the stress on the protective cartilage (articular) that covers the end of the bones.

Meniscal tears are very common and often occur as a result of a twisting injury to the knee. Once the meniscus is torn, this represents a structural injury to the knee and the torn meniscus may continue to cause symptoms. People with meniscal tears often note that the symptoms worsen with activity and are relieved with rest.

Symptoms / Diagnosis

  • Pain (typically on the inside of the knee)
  • Swelling
  • Pain when squatting or twisting
  • Popping and clicking

Although the diagnosis is made based on physical exam, sometimes an MRI can help to confirm the diagnosis.

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Treatment Options

Many people have meniscal tears and they are not all bothersome. The typical course of a meniscal tear is that the symptoms will improve with rest and get worse after periods of activity.

Non-operative care for a meniscal tear involves rest, ice, anti-inflammatory medications, and activity modification. For some people, avoiding the activities that cause pain is possible and they are able to avoid surgery.

If you fail non-operative treatment then you may be a candidate for an arthroscopy. Arthroscopic surgery is a minimally-invasive procedure that allows your doctor to view the inside of the knee with a camera through “poke-hole” sized incisions. Once a tear is identified, it can be removed with special instruments.

Risks and Results

The goal of surgery is to remove the torn piece of meniscus. The results of this procedure are generally excellent. If some arthritis is identified during the procedure, this may be a cause of continued pain. In addition to the general risks of surgery, the risks specific to this procedure are mainly stiffness and continued pain.

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Further Reading

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