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Knee Meniscus Tears

The meniscus in the knee is a piece of cartilage that sits between the bony surfaces of the joint. It is a rubbery tissue that acts as a shock absorber during activities such as walking, running and jumping. A meniscal tear occurs when the knee is forcefully twisted such as occurs during sports. With aging, degenerative meniscal tears can occur with simple activities such as arising from a chair.

The meniscus has nerves woven though it and if there is a tear, the pain can be severe. Joint swelling can also occur due to a torn blood vessel that can cause a great deal of pain on its own. If the meniscus is flipping back and forth while you are moving around that may also cause severe pain.


Symptoms can vary widely based on the severity of the tear and can include:

• Knee joint pain

• Knee joint swelling or effusion

• Giving way of the knee

• Difficulty with straightening and bending your knee

• The knee locks in one position

• An audible popping or snap is heard at the time of injury

Other diseases that can mimic a knee meniscal tear include:

• Knee osteoarthritis

• Anterior cruciate ligament tear (ACL tear) of the knee

• Fracture



The treatment of your knee meniscal injury depends on the type of injury you have. Injuries located on the outside one-third of the meniscus with its excellent blood supply have a good chance of healing on their own. The inner two-thirds of the meniscus lack a blood supply so it cannot heal. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs) and crutches may be helpful when the injury first happens. As the initial symptoms settle down, a more definitive treatment plan will be decided on based on your age, activity level, and any related injuries. Treatments may include a course of physical therapy, a targeted cortisone injection to decrease the initial swelling and pain or a platelet-rich plasma injection to allowing healing to take place.

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