Learn more about meniscus tear

Athletes are not the only ones who experience tears to ligaments or cartilage.

Many people suffer a meniscus tear at some point in their lives. Located in the knee, the meniscus is a piece of cartilage that serves as a buffer between your shin and thigh bones. It also helps to stabilize your knee joint.

If you suspect your meniscus is torn, see your doctor or make an appointment as soon as possible at UPMC Orthopedic Care.

Never Miss a Beat!

Get Healthy Tips Sent to Your Phone!

Message and data rates may apply. Text the word STOP to opt out and HELP for help. Click here to view the privacy and terms.

Why Did My Meniscus Tear?

A torn meniscus is a common knee injury, and it can happen for a number of reasons. Most frequently, meniscus tears occur while playing sports or because of age.

In sports, an unexpected tackle or abrupt change of direction that forces your knee the wrong way can cause the meniscus to tear. These same movements off the field or court also can result in a torn meniscus.

And as we age, the meniscus becomes weak and thin. Simply moving or standing too quickly can result in a tear.

What Are the Symptoms of a Meniscus Tear?

When the meniscus tears, it may sound like your knee joint “pops.” Here are some other symptoms that can indicate a torn meniscus:

  • Pain and swelling around the knee
  • The feeling that your knee “locks up”
  • Inability of the knee to support any weight
  • Inability to fully straighten your knee joint

Symptoms may vary depending on the severity of the tear. In milder cases you might experience only slight swelling, while a more severe tear can cause the knee to lock up and result in a higher level of pain.

Treatment for a Meniscus Tear

Once a doctor determines your meniscus is torn, there are a number of treatment options available.

For a mild meniscus tear, the most common treatment is R.I.C.E. — rest, ice, compression, and elevation. Avoid putting any weight on the knee, ice the area every few hours, and wrap and elevate the knee to reduce swelling. You can also take an anti-inflammatory medicine such as ibuprofen to help decrease pain and swelling.

Depending on how severe the tear is, a doctor may recommend physical therapy. The amount of time it takes to recover from a meniscus tear varies, but a typical recovery spans from one to three months.

Will I Need Surgery?

If more conservative approaches don’t work, you may have a severe meniscus tear that requires surgery. Your doctor will confirm there is a tear with an examination and MRI.

It is important to know that sometimes it is not possible to repair a torn meniscus. In some cases, the best option may be to remove the cartilage from around the knee joint to allow for proper healing.

A torn meniscus will not heal without proper treatment, which can lead to chronic knee pain and a higher risk for osteoarthritis. If you suspect your meniscus is torn, see your doctor or make an appointment as soon as possible at UPMC Orthopedic Care.

About UPMC Orthopaedic Care

When you are dealing with bone, muscle, or joint pain, it can affect your daily life. UPMC Orthopaedic Care can help. As a national leader in advanced orthopaedic care, we diagnose and treat a full range of musculoskeletal disorders, from the acute and chronic to the common and complex. We provide access to UPMC’s vast network of support services for both surgical and nonsurgical treatments and a full continuum of care. Our multidisciplinary team of experts will work with you to develop the treatment plan that works best for you. Our care team uses the most innovative tools and techniques to provide better outcomes. We also are leaders in research and clinical trials, striving to find better ways to provide our patients care. With locations throughout our communities, you can find a provider near you.