Sports, Pain​ & ​

Regenerative Institute

Meniscus Tear Q & A

The meniscus in humans is a portion of cartilage that gives cushion between the thigh bone (femur) and shin bone (tibia). Every knee joint has two, but they are susceptible to tear due to excessive pressure that is placed on the knees. It is a common injury among basketball and football players, as well as mixed martial artists.


Causes of Meniscus Tear

Aside from sports, a meniscus tear can occur due to rising up too fast while performing squats. Any physical activity that involves sudden stops or turns will put one at risk of suffering such an injury. However, the meniscus will also wear down with age. As such, tears occur frequently in those that are thirty years of age or older, but because a growing number of children are engaging in sports, they too are susceptible to injury. Those that have osteoarthritis also have an increased likelihood of sustaining a meniscus tear. This is because the knee cartilage will have inflammation, and will be thinner and weaker as a result.


Symptoms of Meniscus Tear

Those that sustain a meniscus tear will often hear the sound of popping near their knee joint. Subsequently, they might experience:

  • Pain, particularly when the knee is touched
  • Problems moving the knee
  • Swelling in the knee
  • A sensation of the knee locking
  • A sensation of inadequate knee support


Treatment of Meniscus Tear

To diagnose a meniscus tear, your doctor may perform X-rays or an MRI. Although the X-ray won’t actually show the tear itself, it can be useful in identifying other issues, such as osteoarthritis. The MRI, or magnetic resonance imaging, makes use of magnetic fields in order to capture multiple knee images. This will allow your doctor to evaluate the ligaments and cartilage to determine if a tear is present and the best course of action to heal it.


The best way to overcome a meniscus tear is by resting the knee, putting ice on it, compressing it and elevating it. Rest your knee by using crutches to take weight off it, and ice should be applied every four hours for about thirty minutes. The knee should be compressed using elastic bandages since they will lower inflammation, and elevating the knee will eliminate swelling. Basic anti-inflammatory medication can also be administered to help with the pain.


Physical therapy is also essential, especially for professional athletes. For these individuals, it isn’t enough to get their knee back in tip top condition; they must be able to use it to perform at the highest level. Physical therapists will help patients regain their stability and mobility. They also make use of massage techniques to help with stiffness. Arthroscopic surgery is a last resort, once every other measure has failed. The surgeon will create an incision inside the knee, after which they will insert a camera and other tools to manually repair the torn meniscus. The operation usually lasts about sixty minutes.