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Meniscus Tear in Knee

  • What is a meniscus tear?

    Meniscus tear

    The meniscus is a small C-shaped cartilage that acts as a cushion in the knee joint, protecting it from wear and tear and helping to stabilise the joint. There are 2 menisci that sit between the thigh bone (femur) and the shin bone (tibia), one is on the inside of the knee (medial) and one is on the outside (lateral).

    A meniscus tear occurs when one of these pieces of cartilage in the knee is injured and/or torn.

  • A meniscus tear occurs when the knee is subjected to pressure and rotation or twisting while the foot is firmly planted. Even simple, everyday actions such as kneeling, squatting or lifting something heavy can result in a meniscus tear.

    Those at particular risk include:

    • athletes involved in contact sports or sports like tennis and basketball that require pivoting
    • persons who are overweight
    • older persons, who are more likely to have degenerative changes in the knees
  • The symptoms of a meniscus tear in the knee include:

    • popping sensation, indicating that a piece of cartilage has come loose
    • pain on either side of the knee, especially upon contact
    • tenderness at the joint line area
    • swelling at the joint line area
    • difficulty moving your knee
    • limited range of movement
    • feeling like your knee is locking or catching
    • feeling like your knee is giving way or unable to support your weight
  • To diagnose a meniscus tear, your doctor will need to ask about your injury and conduct a physical examination to check your knee’s range of movement. Special tests that involve bending, straightening and rotating your knee can help determine if you have a meniscus tear.

    Imaging tests such as an MRI may be recommended to help your doctor evaluate the extent of injury. X-rays may be advised to eliminate other causes of knee pain.

    In the event that the tests above are unable to determine the cause of your knee pain, an arthroscopy may be performed. This technique involves making small incisions that allow the doctor to insert a camera so that he or she is able to see the injury more clearly.

  • Some meniscus tears may heal on their own, although surgery can be done to repair the tears faster. Otherwise, the Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation (RICE) protocol is advised:

    • Rest – take a break from the activity that caused the injury
    • Ice – use cold packs on the injury for 20 minutes at a time, several times a day
    • Compression – use an elastic compression bandage to prevent further swelling
    • Elevation – to reduce swelling, lean back or lay down during rest, and lift the leg up higher than the heart

    Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce pain and swelling.

    If surgery is needed to repair or remove the pieces of the torn meniscus, this is usually done by arthroscopy (minimally invasive surgery).

    Consult an orthopaedic surgeon to determine the treatment method most suitable for your condition.


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  • A torn meniscus can cause long-term problems, constant rubbing of the torn meniscus on the cartilage may cause the joint surface to become worn, leading to knee osteoarthritis.

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