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Knee Meniscus Tear


Knee Meniscus Tear - Why does this happen?
The knee is a complex hinge joint.  The convex surfaces of the femur sit on the concave surfaces of the tibia.  Two Menisci, lateral and medial fibro cartilaginous discs, sit between the femur and tibia to act as a shock absorber and improve the shape of the joint. 

A Knee Meniscus Tear is a tear of the fibro cartilaginous disc which can occur following a side impact or a twist when the foot remains on the floor and the knee rotates.  For example playing football when the boot is stuck in mud or when the knee twits during a skiing accident.


 The meniscus can be damaged in isolation or in conjunction with the medial collateral ligament and/or the anterior cruciate ligament, depending how much force is involved in the injury.

What are the symptoms?
  • Pain on the inside of the knee.
  • Swelling of the knee.
  • Pain is worse on twisting or sideways movements.
  • Pain is relieved after a period of rest.    
  • Stiffness in the knee, particularly in the morning and after rest.
  • Difficulty straightening the knee.
  • Feeling of ‘locking’ or ‘giving way’ on weight bearing.
  • Clicking or catching in the knee on activity.


Diagnosing a Knee Meniscus Tear

Your GP or Physiotherapist can usually diagnose a Knee Meniscus Tear by simply by examining your knee and hearing where the pain is and how it started.  It is important to ensure the medial collateral ligament and the anterior cruciate ligament are not also injured.


If the knee is unstable it may be an indication of more server damage to the Meniscus or cruciate ligament and further tests may be required.

What is the treatment?

A small Knee Meniscus Tear can heal itself in 6 weeks with some simple changes to activity and exercise.  By trying to avoid or reduce the activity which causes the pain, to allow the damaged meniscus time to recover and heal. 


To help reduce the symptoms an 'ice pack' can be placed on the painful area for 15 - 20 minutes, twice a day.  Do not place the 'ice pack' directly on the skin.  Wrap the 'ice pack' in a damp towel before placing on the painful area to ensure you do not burn the skin. Elevate the leg where possible for the first 48 hours.


During the initial painful stages it is important to manage the pain.

Painkillers and anti-inflammatory medications  -  These may be prescribed by your GP if the pain is costant.  This is a temporary measure to break the pain cycle, but can continue as required.
Exercise  -  Exercise is important to help regain knee movement. Once the pain has settled it is important to strengthen the surrounding muscles and work on your balance to help prevent reoccurrence.  Click here for a list of exercises suitable for a Knee Meniscus Tear.

Biomechanical Analysis  -   If there are significant mechanical problems insoles or specific trainers may improve your leg position and help avoid further injuries.  A biomechanical assessment by a Podiatrist or Physiotherapist will determine whether insoles or specific trainers would be of benefit.

Physiotherapy  -  If exercise alone does not improve symptoms then physiotherapy treatment may be required.  A physiotherapist can use specific treatments including, ultrasound, deep friction, massage, interferential, acupuncture or taping to help relieve pain and aid recovery. Click here for more information about Physiotherapy.
Injections  -  In some cases your GP or Consultant may recommend an injection.  These can be used to reduce inflammation and pain when the symptoms are severe and constant.  This is not a 'cure' and it is important to follow the exercises and modify activities.  A 'Cortisone Injection' can help reduce inflammation in the tendon, whilst a 'PRP Injection' (Platelet Rich Plasma) can help to stimulate healing.
Surgery  -  This is an option in severe cases of a Knee Meniscus Tear. In some cases when symptoms are persistent surgery may be considered.    
Remember an important part of treatment for a Knee Meniscus Tear is your home exercises and modifying activities.