by Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
A meniscal tear is a tear in the meniscus. The meniscus is cartilage, which acts as a shock-absorbing structure in the knee. There are 2 menisci in each knee, a medial one on the inside, and a lateral one on the outside.
There are different types of tears depending on the location and how they look. Treatment depends on the severity of the tear.
Most injuries to the meniscus are caused by trauma. This usually includes compression and twisting of the knee. Because the aging process breaks down the inner tissues of the meniscus, minor trauma can injure the meniscus in an older adult.
Older adults and men are at increased risk. Factors that may increase your risk of:
Symptoms may include:
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
Your knee may need to be viewed. This can be done with:
Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Recovery time ranges depend on the severity of your injury. Treatment steps may include:
The knee will need time to heal. Supportive care may include:
Over-the-counter or prescription medication may be advised to reduce pain.
A physical therapist will assess the knee. An exercise program will be created to help recovery and to stretch and strengthen the muscles.
Repair or removal of all or part of the damaged meniscus may by done. This is usually done through small incisions of the skin. A camera and special tools are inserted through the incisions.
To reduce your chances of a meniscal tear, take these steps:
American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine
Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
Canadian Orthopaedic Association
Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation
Knee sprains and meniscal tears. Merck Manual for Health Care Professionals. Available at:
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Updated August 2017. Accessed March 27, 2018.
Meniscal tears. Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases--conditions/meniscus-tears/. Updated March 2014. Accessed March 27, 2018.
Meniscus tears. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116776/Meniscus-tears . Updated June 19, 2017. Accessed March 27, 2018
Torn meniscus. Johns Hopkins Medicine website. Available at:
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Accessed March 27, 2018.
04/24/2014 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance. http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116776/Meniscus-tears : Snoeker BA, Bakker EW, et al. Risk factors for meniscal tears: a systematic review including meta-analysis. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2013; 43(6):352-367.
Last reviewed March 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Teresa Briedwell, PT, DPT
Last Updated: 4/24/2014
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