Conditions & Treatments

Meniscus Tears

What is a meniscus?

The meniscus is a shock-absorbing pad of cartilage that protects the bones in the knee joint. There are two C-shaped pieces of cartilage in the knee, called the medial and lateral menisci. They also function to stabilize the joint, and equally distribute your weight on the knee for balance.

What is a torn meniscus?

Meniscus tears are a common knee injury. When someone says they have torn cartilage in the knee, they are talking about a torn meniscus.

What causes a torn meniscus?

A torn meniscus is caused by a sudden, forceful twisting or rotation of the knee, particularly while putting your full weight on the knee. It can happen during sports or normal daily activity. It can happen from squatting, pivoting, and sudden stops and turns. It can also be caused by direct contact during sports.

As we age the meniscus cartilage dries out and becomes brittle.  Wear and tear increase the risk of a degenerative tear. A simple awkward twist when getting out of a chair can tear the meniscus. Many patients do not recall how they first injured their knee

What are the symptoms of a torn meniscus?

Symptoms include:

  • A popping sensation
  • Swelling and stiffness
  • Pain when twisting the knee
  • Difficulty straightening the knee
  • Locking of the knee
  • Buckling of the knee

Usually, you can still walk on the injured knee, but might be unable move the knee through its complete range of motion.

If untreated, pieces of the meniscus can become loose and float in the joint causing the knee to pop, lock or slip.

How is a meniscus tear diagnosed?

During your consultation with your Orthopedic Associates of Northern California’s board-certified orthopedic surgeon, you will discuss how you injured your knee, your symptoms and medical history, and your orthopedist will examine your knee.

They will check for soreness along the joint where the meniscus is located. Your range of motion will be tested by bending, rotating and straightening your knee. These movements will put pressure on the meniscus and cause a clicking sound each time the test is performed.

To rule out other causes of your symptoms, you will receive x-rays and to see the soft tissue of the meniscus additional imaging studies may be ordered. Complications of a torn meniscus include difficulty moving the knee normally, persistent knee pain.

What can my doctor do for me?

Treatment will depend on the type, size and location of the tear. If the tear is small nonsurgical treatment may be recommended. If the knee is stable this may be all you need.

Nonsurgical treatment includes RICE- Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation, along with over the counter analgesic medications. Small tears can heal in 4-6 weeks. Larger tears may require 3 months or more to heal.

When symptoms persist, your Orthopedic Associates of Northern California surgeon may recommend knee arthroscopy so they can see inside the joint and may be able to trim or repair the tear.

Meniscus tears are common and with the correct diagnosis and treatment you can usually return to your pre-injury activities.

Orthopedic Associates of Northern California’s office is located in Chico, CA. We look forward to providing you with compassionate, patient-centered care based on your needs. The team at Orthopedic Associates of Northern California is deeply committed to your health and well-being. Contact us to get the correct diagnosis and learn about all your treatment options.