Torn Meniscus (cont.)
Benjamin Wedro, MD, FACEP, FAAEM
Dr. Ben Wedro practices emergency medicine at Gundersen Clinic, a regional trauma center in La Crosse, Wisconsin. His background includes undergraduate and medical studies at the University of Alberta, a Family Practice internship at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario and residency training in Emergency Medicine at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.
William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.
In this Article
- Torn meniscus facts
- Introduction to the knee
- What is a torn meniscus?
- What causes a meniscus to tear?
- What are symptoms and signs of a torn meniscus?
- How is a meniscus tear diagnosed?
- What is the treatment for a torn meniscus?
- Can a meniscus tear heal without surgery?
- What is rehabilitation and recovery like for a patient with a meniscus tear?
- What are recommended exercises once a torn meniscus has been repaired?
- Find a local Orthopedic Surgeon in your town
What is a torn meniscus?
A torn meniscus is damage to the cartilage that sits on top of the tibia and allows the femur to glide when the knee joint moves. Tears are usually described by where they are located and their appearance (for example, "bucket handle" tear, longitudinal, parrot beak, and transverse). While physical examination may predict whether it is the medial or lateral meniscus that is damaged, a diagnostic procedure, like an MRI or knee arthroscopy, can locate the specific part of the cartilage that is torn and how it appears.
Because there is different blood supply to each part of the meniscus, knowing where the tear is located may help decide how easily an injury might heal (with or without surgery). The better the blood supply, the better the potential for recovery. The outside rim of cartilage has better blood supply than the central part of the "C." Blood supply to knee cartilage also decreases with age, and up to 20% of normal blood supply is lost by age 40.
What causes a meniscus to tear?
A forceful twist or sudden stop can cause the end of the femur to grind into the top of the tibia, pinching and potentially tearing the cartilage of the meniscus. This injury can also occur with a deep squatting or kneeling, especially when lifting a heavy weight. Meniscus tear injuries often occur during athletic activities, especially in contact sports like football and hockey. Motions that require pivoting and sudden stops, such as tennis, basketball, and golf, can also cause meniscus damage.
The risk of developing a torn meniscus increases with age because cartilage begins to gradually wear, lose its blood supply and its resilience. Increasing body weight also puts more stress on the meniscus. Routine daily activities like walking and climbing stairs increase the potential for wear, degeneration, and tearing.
Because some of the fibers of the cartilage are interconnected with those of the ligaments that surround the knee, meniscus injuries may be associated with tears of the collateral and cruciate ligaments, depending upon the mechanism of injury.
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