A Torn Meniscus

One common reason for knee pain is a torn meniscus. A meniscus is a cartilage between the thigh bone and the lower leg bone. A torn meniscus occurs when a sudden twisting or turning with a bent knee and planted foot. The meniscus is C-shaped and each knee has two menisci, medial and lateral meniscus, which ensure the protection of the knee.

Signs and symptoms to look out for

The common symptoms include pain, swelling, limping, locking of the knee joint, and difficulty with bending or straightening the knee. However, a meniscus tear is classified into three types: minor, moderate, and severe. A minor tear has mild pain and swelling that last for 2-3 weeks. A moderate tear presents with worsening pain and swelling and restricts the ability to bend the knee. A severe tear requires immediate attention and presents with locking, popping the knee, and difficulty extending the knee.

How to differentiate this type of knee pain from others

To make a possible diagnosis of meniscus tear, the doctor will take a medical history and physical examination. The next step will undergo tests such as x-rays or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). MRI gives a better view of the knee in cases with serious conditions.

What are the management possibilities?

The treatment of the tear depends on various factors such as age, the severity of the condition, and medical history. The initial treatment is conservative such as rest, ice application, applying compression bandage, elevating the leg during rest, and medications. Medications include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to lessen knee pain and swelling. Sometimes meniscus tears require surgical intervention such as knee arthroscopy where the meniscus is partly removed or repaired. Surgery is advised when conservative treatment is ineffective or when the tear is severe.


Depending on the case, sometimes after a meniscus tear, the knee does not recover completely, leading to possible complications. A few complications include the risk of other knee injuries such as ligament tears. Even after knee surgery, there are some complications such as bleeding, infection, or injury to the nerve. If the surgery involved removing a part of the meniscus, there is a higher chance of developing arthritis later.


Usually, people recover completely and can resume activities after a torn meniscus. Patients who underwent surgery require more recovery time and need a few months of physical therapy. Any type of meniscus tear requires a doctor’s advice and should not be overlooked.