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Posted by on Jun 21, 2017 in Tell Me Why |

What Is a Meniscus Tear?

What Is a Meniscus Tear?

Meniscus Tear is a medical term used when the meniscus cartilage in one of the knees is torn. A meniscus tear is a common knee injury. The meniscus is a rubbery, C-shaped disc that cushions your knee. Each knee has two menisci (plural of meniscus)-one at the outer edge of the knee and one at the inner edge.

The menisci keep your knee steady by balancing your weight across the knee. A torn meniscus can prevent your knee from working right. Meniscus acts as shock-absorbers and aid in ease of movement of the knee. In a young person, it can tear during twisting movements. In old age, it gets torn because of age-related wear and tear.

When doctors and patients refer to “torn cartilage” in the knee, they actually may be referring to an injury to a meniscus at the top of one of the tibiae. Menisci can be torn during innocuous activities such as walking or squatting. They can also be torn by traumatic force encountered in sports or other forms of physical exertion.

A meniscus tear is usually caused by twisting or turning quickly, often with the foot planted while the knee is bent. Meniscus tears can occur when you lift something heavy or play sports. The traumatic action is most often a twisting movement at the knee while the leg is bent. As you get older, your meniscus gets worn. This can make it tear more easily; the meniscus can be damaged following prolonged ‘wear and tear’ called a degenerative tear.

degenerative tear

If you are older and your meniscus is worn, you may not know what you did to cause the tear. You may only remember feeling pain after you got up from a squatting position, for example. Pain and slight swelling are often the only symptoms.

In severe tears, pieces of the torn meniscus can move into the joint space. This can make your knee catch, pop, or lock. You may not be able to straighten it. Your knee may feel “wobbly” or give way without warning. It may swell and become stiff right after the injury or within 2 or 3 days.

Tears can lead to pain and/or swelling of the knee joint. Especially acute injuries (typically in younger, more active patients) can lead to displaced tears which can cause mechanical symptoms such as clicking, catching, or locking during motion of the knee joint. The joint will be in pain when in use, but when there is no load, the pain goes away. A tear of the medial meniscus can occur as part of the unhappy triad, together with a tear of the anterior cruciate ligament and medial collateral ligament.

Content for this question contributed by Jeannie Barber, resident of Tampa, Hillsborough County, Florida, USA