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
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
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