The meniscus is a rubbery, C-shaped piece of cartilage that acts as a shock absorber between your thighbone and shinbone. Each knee has two menisci, one at the outer edge of the knee and one at the inner edge of the knee. The menisci work together to provide stability to the knee joint by distributing your weight across the knee. When people talk about torn cartilage in the knee, they are usually referring to a torn meniscus. Meniscus tears are among the most common knee injuries.
Common Causes of Meniscus Injuries
Damage to the meniscus can be caused by:
- Direct contact to the side or front of the knee, causing the knee to move sideways
- Twisting or turning quickly while the foot is planted and the knee is bent
- Sports-related meniscus tears often occur alongside other knee injuries, such as an ACL tear
- A deep squat or heavy lifting can injure the meniscus
- Degeneration from arthritis can weaken and damage the meniscus
When a meniscus tear occurs, you may hear a popping sound around the knee joint. Afterwards, you may experience:
- Pain and sensitivity to the touch
- Difficulty moving the knee or limited range of motion
- Locking or catching of the knee joint
- Instability or the knee is “giving way”
Initial treatment for a meniscus injury should include conservative techniques, such as rest, ice, compression, and elevation. Physical therapy can help reduce pain and swelling, and increase mobility and stability. If the knee does not respond well to conservative treatment, your physician may recommend arthroscopic surgery.
Knee arthroscopy is a minimally invasive procedure used to repair damage inside a joint. A miniature camera and surgical instruments are inserted into the knee joint through small incision. The procedure typically lasts about an hour, and patients are usually able to go home following surgery.
Meniscus tears are extremely common knee injuries. If your symptoms fail to improve following nonsurgical treatment options, your physician may suggest arthroscopic surgery to repair the damaged meniscus. Following surgery, your physician my prescribe physical therapy to help restore your knee mobility and strength. Recovery and rehabilitation time is about six weeks for most meniscus repairs.