Meniscus tear

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Meniscus tear

Question

What can you tell me about meniscus tears?

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Answer

A meniscus tear is a common knee injury. Meniscal cartilage is a wedge-like rubbery cushion that curves like the letter "C' at the inside and outside of the knee. Each knee joint has two menisci (plural for "meniscus"). This cartilage helps stabilize the knee joint and provides cushioning between the thighbone (femur) and shinbone (tibia).

A meniscus tear can result from any activity that produces a twisting or rotational stress to the knee — such as aggressive pivoting or sudden stops and turns. In older adults, a meniscus tear can occur from degenerative changes of the knee.

Signs and symptoms of a meniscus tear can include:

  • Mild to moderate swelling in the knee, usually developing over 24 to 48 hours after the injury
  • Knee pain, which may be localized to the side of the knee that the tear is on
  • "Locking" of the knee, in which the knee is not able to move through its full range of motion because of a cartilage block

Treatment of a meniscus tear may include:

  • Icing the knee
  • Crutches and resting the injured knee
  • Pain relievers
  • Physical therapy to relieve pain and strengthen and stabilize the muscles around the knee

In some cases, a flap of the torn cartilage can interfere with knee movement and cause "locking" of the knee joint. Arthroscopic surgery may be needed to trim the torn flap and restore normal joint movement. In some cases, especially in younger individuals, it may be possible to repair the tear using arthroscopic surgery.

Meniscus tear

Illustration of meniscus tear

The meniscus is the C-shaped cartilage that curves around the inside and outside of the knee. This cartilage helps stabilize the knee joint and provides cushioning between the thighbone and shinbone. A meniscus tear is a common knee injury and can result from any activity that produces a twisting stress to the knee.

Last Updated: 05/19/2006
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