A meniscus tear can occur if you:
- Twist or over-flex your knee
- Quickly stop moving and change direction while running, landing from a jump, or turning
- Kneel down
- Squat down low and lift something heavy
- Get hit on your knee, such as during a football tackle
As you get older, your meniscus ages too, and it can become easier to injure.
You may feel a “pop” when a meniscus injury occurs. You also may have:
- Knee pain inside the joint, which gets worse with pressure on the joint
- Knee swelling that occurs the next day after injury or after activities
- Knee joint pain when walking
- Locking or catching of your knee
- Difficulty squatting
After examining your knee, the doctor may order these imaging tests:
- An MRI of the knee. An MRI machine takes special pictures of the tissues inside your knee. The pictures will show whether these tissues have been stretched or torn
- X-rays to check for damage to the bones in your knee
If you have a meniscus tear, you may need:
- Crutches to walk until the swelling and pain get better
- A brace to support and stabilize your knee
- Physical therapy to help improve joint motion and leg strength
- Surgery to repair or remove the torn meniscus
Treatment may depend on your age, activity level, and where the tear occurs. For mild tears, you may be able to treat the injury with rest and self-care.
For other types of tears, or if you are younger in age, you may need knee arthroscopy (surgery) to repair or trim the meniscus. In this type of surgery, small cuts are made to the knee. A small camera and small surgical tools are inserted to repair the tear.
A meniscus transplant may be needed if the meniscus tear is so severe that all or nearly all of the meniscus cartilage is torn or has to be removed. The new meniscus can help with knee pain and possibly prevent future arthritis.
You should not put all of your weight on your leg if it hurts or if your doctor tells you not to. Rest and self-care may be enough to allow the tear to heal. You may need to use crutches.
Afterward, you will learn exercises to make the muscles, ligaments, and tendons around your knee stronger and more flexible.
If you have surgery, you may need physical therapy to regain the full use of your knee. Recovery can take a few weeks to a few months. Under your doctor’s guidance, you should be able to do the same activities you did before.