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Torn meniscus

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What is a meniscus?

There are two cartilage structures called menisci in your knee that sit between the tibia (leg bone) and the femur (thigh bone). These absorb shock going through your knee during any daily activities to protect your lower limbs. The medial meniscus sits on the inside of the knee, and the lateral meniscus sits on the outside of the knee.


Causes of a torn meniscus

Meniscus injury usually occurs when a person twists or turns their upper leg while their knee is bent. Acute meniscus tears often happen during sports, especially during sudden knee twists.

Degenerative meniscus tears are more common when we get older. Aged tissue is more susceptible to tears. A twist when getting up from a chair may be enough to cause a tear in an ageing meniscus.



The severity of symptoms varies significantly from patient to patient. The symptoms are not constant for some patients but may come and go. Symptoms of torn cartilage may include:

  • Pain in the knee joint

  • Swelling of the knee joint

  • Catching or locking your knee

  • The sensation of your knee giving way

  • Reduce the range of motion of your knee 

  • Limping


When should I seek medical help?

There are circumstances when knee pain might be caused or accompanied by severe issues. If such symptoms are present, it is best to seek immediate medical attention to avoid further complications:

  • A very painful knee that stops you from doing normal daily activities.

  • Unable to bear any weight.

  • Badly swollen or deformed knees.

  • Redness, high temperature and knee swelling may indicate an infection in your knee.



To diagnose torn meniscus, your doctor will take your case history and past medical history into account. Then your doctor will examine your knee, checking for any pain along the joint line. They will also perform special orthopaedic tests on your knee. 


Imaging helps diagnose torn cartilage in the knee. X-rays provide images of bones. Although an X-ray can not show a meniscus tear, it is helpful for the doctor to look for other causes of knee pain, such as osteoarthritis. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans can help assess the soft tissues in your knee joint, including the menisci, cartilage, tendons, and ligaments.



Non-surgical treatment is the first-line treatment for torn cartilage. Here are some examples: 

  • Rest. Rest your leg for a few days after injury. Your doctor may recommend crutches to reduce the pressure on your knee joint. 

  • Ice. Use cold packs for 15-20 minutes at a time, every 2-3 hours. 

  • Compression. Wear an elastic bandage to prevent further swelling of your knee.

  • Elevation. Put a pillow under your ankle to elevate your knee. It can help reduce swelling. 

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen can help reduce pain and swelling.

  • Steroid injection. Corticosteroid injection into the knee joint can help reduce pain and swelling immediately. 

  • Physical therapy. A therapist can help you strengthen your knees and improve flexibility and range of motion.


A knee arthroscopy, a minimally invasive procedure, is commonly used to treat meniscal tears. Surgeons will look at the knee condition via a small optic cable inserted in the knee joint and repair or trim out the torn portion of the meniscus.

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