What is a torn meniscus?
There are 3 bones in the knee. These are the femur, tibia, and patella. The ends of those bones are covered with cartilage. This is 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 2 crescent-shaped disks 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 they can be major, with the meniscus barely attached to the knee by a cartilage thread.
What are the symptoms of a torn meniscus?
Each person may have different symptoms. But the most common symptoms are:
- Pain, especially when holding the knee straight
- Swelling and stiffness
- Knee may catch, click, or lock
- Knee may feel weak or unstable
These symptoms may look like other health conditions or problems. Always talk with your healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
How is a torn meniscus diagnosed?
Your healthcare provider will ask about your medical history and do a physical exam. You may also need:
- X-ray. This test uses invisible electromagnetic energy beams to make images of internal tissues, bones, and organs onto film.
- MRI. This test uses a combination of large magnets, radiofrequencies, and a computer to make detailed images of organs and structures within the body. It can often find damage or disease in a surrounding ligament, tendon, bone, or muscle.
- Arthroscopy. This is a minimally-invasive procedure used for conditions of a joint. It uses a small, lighted, optic tube (arthroscope). The tube 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 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.