The meniscus is a c-shaped piece of cartilage in your knee joint. You have two in each knee.
The meniscus forms a buffer between the bones in your knee to protect the joint. The meniscus:
A meniscus tear can occur if you:
As you get older, your meniscus ages too, and it can become easier to injure.
You may feel a "pop" when a meniscus injury occurs. You also may have:
If you have a meniscus tear, you may need:
Treatment may depend on your age, activity level, and where the tear occurs. For mild tears, you may be able to treat the injury with rest and self-care.
For other types of tears, or if you are younger in age, you may need knee arthroscopy (surgery) to repair the meniscus. In this type of surgery, small cuts are made to the knee. A small camera and small surgical tools are inserted to repair the tear.
Follow R.I.C.E. to help reduce pain and swelling:
You can use ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn) to reduce pain and swelling. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) helps with pain, but not with swelling. You can buy these pain medicines at the store.
You should not put all of your weight on your leg if it hurts or if your doctor tells you not to. Rest and self-care may be enough to allow the tear to heal. You may need to use crutches.
Afterward, you will learn exercises to make the muscles, ligaments, and tendons around your knee stronger and more flexible.
If you have surgery to repair your meniscus, you may need physical therapy to regain the full use of your knee. Recovery can take a few weeks to a few months. But you should be able to do the same activities you did before.
Call your doctor if:
Knee cartilage tear - aftercare
Brockmeier SF, Rodeo SA. Knee: meniscal injuries. In: DeLee JC, Drez D Jr, Miller MD, eds. DeLee and Drez’s Orthopaedic Sports Medicine. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2009:chap 23(sect B).
De Carlo M, Armstrong B. Rehabilitation of the knee following sports injury. Clin Sports Med. 2010;29(1):81-106.
Miller III RH, Azar, FM. Knee injuires. In: Canale ST, Beaty JH, Daugherty K, Jones L, et al. Canale & Beaty: Campbell's Operative Orthopaedics. 12th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Mosby Elsevier, 2013:chap 45.
Updated by: C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Assistant Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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