What is a torn meniscus?
There are three bones in the knee, the femur, tibia and patella. The ends of those bones are covered with cartilage (a smooth material that cushions the bone and allows the joint to move easily without pain). The cartilage acts as a shock absorber. Between the bones of the knees are two crescent-shaped discs of connective tissue, called menisci. These also act as shock absorbers to cushion the lower part of the leg from the weight of the rest of the body.
What causes a torn meniscus?
Meniscus tears can happen during a rotating movement while bearing weight, such as when twisting the upper leg while the foot stays in one place during sports and other activities. Tears can be minor, with the meniscus staying connected to the knee, or major, with the meniscus barely attached to the knee by a cartilage thread.
What are the symptoms of a torn meniscus?
The following are the most common symptoms of a torn meniscus. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:
- Pain, especially when holding the knee straight
- Swelling and stiffness
- Knee may catch, click, or lock
- Knee may feel weak
The symptoms of a torn meniscus may resemble other medical conditions or problems. Always talk with your healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
How is a torn meniscus diagnosed?
In addition to a complete medical history and physical exam, diagnostic procedures for a torn meniscus may include the following:
- X-ray. A diagnostic test that uses invisible electromagnetic energy beams to produce images of internal tissues, bones, and organs onto film.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). A diagnostic procedure that uses a combination of large magnets, radiofrequencies, and a computer to produce detailed images of organs and structures within the body. It can often determine damage or disease in a surrounding ligament or muscle.
- Arthroscopy. A minimally-invasive diagnostic and treatment procedure used for conditions of a joint. This procedure uses a small, lighted, optic tube (arthroscope) that is inserted into the joint through a small incision in the joint. Images of the inside of the joint are projected onto a screen. They are used to evaluate any degenerative and/or arthritic changes in the joint. The procedure also may detect bone diseases and tumors as well as determine the cause of bone pain and inflammation.