What You Need to Know About a Meniscus Tear

what is meniscus tear

What Is a Meniscus Tear?

A meniscus tear is one of the more common knee injuries that can negatively affect a person. These injuries tend to bring about a lot of pain and result due to a forceful twisting of certain tissue found in the knee. People that play sports have a much higher risk of obtaining this type of knee injury. The meniscus is a specific portion of cartilage that cushions the joint of the knee.

It’s important to understand that playing sports isn’t all that leads to this form of injury. A sudden twist of the knee when changing directions during a run can also lead to a meniscus tear. Once a person becomes older, their risk of a knee injury increases, especially for those around the age of 65 or older. The same holds true for people with other knee problems, as the existence of an additional knee issue weakens the knee and opens it up for later problems like a meniscus injury.

Possible Symptoms

While this type of injury is generally noticeable, due to the existence of a large amount of knee pain, a smaller tear may not be as identifiable, which is why it’s important to look out for these symptoms if your knee begins to bother you. Aside from pain around the knee, other symptoms include swelling, a sensation of popping, difficulties when bending your leg and locking in the knee. Pain will grow over time, as inflammation increases. Because of this, it’s essential that you seek treatment as soon as you suspect that this type of tear may have occurred.

Treatment Options For Meniscus Tear

There are several treatment options available if you ever suffer from a tear of the meniscus, though these options depend on the actual location and size of the tear in question. If the outer section of the cartilage retains a healthy blood flow, even with the tear, there’s a possibility that no treatment will be needed and it will heal by itself. However, if the tear is deep enough to affect the remaining two-thirds of the cartilage, other treatment will be necessary.

For larger tears, surgery may sometimes be required. However, if the tear isn’t too large, natural remedies may heal the knee pain on their own. For one, the knee will need to be rested. Don’t do anything more stressful than walking until the pain dissipates. Crutches may also be necessary. Icing and compressing the knee are definitely recommended, in order to eliminate any visible swelling. When icing the knee, do it for 20 minutes every few hours until the pain is gone.

The knee should stay elevated most of the time, to ensure that excessive bending doesn’t cause re-injury. After a couple of days, start making use of stretching exercises in an attempt to hasten recovery. Certain anti-inflammatory medicines, such as Advil and Motrin, may also benefit recovery. When it comes to surgery, it’s important to note that most of these surgeries are successful. However, due to the interaction with knee joints during the surgery, there can be an increased risk of knee arthritis at some point in the future.

Recovery Period

Your recovery period all depends on the severity of the tear. It can take longer than a month for full recovery, though this is typically reserved for cases involving surgery. A minor tear will usually only require a few days of recovery. You may want to consider physical therapy following the surgery to make sure the recovery process goes smoothly. You can only return to your standard exercise routine once your torn knee feels just as strong as the other. Start out with stretches and swimming if you’re worried about re-aggravating it. Your doctor will also assist you in pinpointing when you can get back into the swing of things.

Prevention Tips

If you want to reduce the risk of suffering from a tear in your knee, there are several prevention tips that may prove useful. That being said, these tears are usually an accident, so it can be tricky to adequately prevent. You want your thigh muscles to be strong, which is why regular exercise is essential.

Don’t over exert your body, as tired muscles cause an increase in the possibility of injury. Lastly, don’t make extremely sudden movements when exercising and try to rest between workout activities. If your legs and thighs remain flexible, your chance of a tear is greatly reduced.


In this instance, an athlete was originally diagnosed with minor quadriceps muscle strain and was treated for four weeks, with unsatisfactory results. When he came to our clinic, the muscle was not healing, and the patients’ muscle tissue had already begun to atrophy.

Upon examination using MSUS, we discovered that he had a full muscle thickness tear that had been overlooked by his previous provider. To mitigate damage and promote healing, surgery should have been performed immediately after the injury occurred. Because of misdiagnosis and inappropriate treatment, the patient now has permanent damage that cannot be corrected.

The most important advantage of Ultrasound over MRI imaging is its ability to zero in on the symptomatic region and obtain imaging, with active participation and feedback from the patient. Using dynamic MSUS, we can see what happens when patients contract their muscles, something that cannot be done with MRI. From a diagnostic perspective, this interaction is invaluable.

Dynamic ultrasonography examination demonstrating
the full thickness tear and already occurring muscle atrophy
due to misdiagnosis and not referring the patient
to proper diagnostic workup

Demonstration of how very small muscle defect is made and revealed
to be a complete tear with muscle contraction
under diagnostic sonography (not possible with MRI)


Complete tear of rectus femoris
with large hematoma (blood)


Separation of muscle ends due to tear elicited
on dynamic sonography examination

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