Knee: Meniscus Tear

Normal Knee
Courtesy Smith and Nephew

The knee joint is where the thighbone (femur) and shinbone (tibia) meet. They are cushioned by the meniscus, which are two C-shaped discs of cartilage that act as shock absorbers for the knee. These tough and rubbery discs help to evenly distribute the weight of your body across your knee joint, keeping you stable. Meniscus tears are very common injuries, especially among athletes. Older people are more likely to have degenerative meniscal tears due to weakened cartilage. A meniscus tear is generally caused by quickly turning or twisting while your foot is planted and your knee is bent. It can also occur when you lift something heavy, or if you play contact sports. As you age the cartilage wears, making you more susceptible to tearing your meniscus.


  • Pain in the center or side of the knee
  • Stiffness and swelling
  • Limited range of motion
  • Tight feeling in knee
  • Popping or locking when bending
  • Giving way or buckling

Surgery may not always be necessary if the tear occurs in the outer part of the meniscus. This outer section has a rich blood supply that can often heal on its own. The inner part of the meniscus lacks a blood supply. Without the nutrients from blood the tears in this area will not heal, instead requiring surgery to trim away the tear.

Meniscus Tear
Courtesy Smith&Nephew