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What is a meniscus tear?

A meniscus tear is an injury that causes knee pain and mobility issues. They are one of the most common knee injuries, and can often happen along with other types of knee injuries. A meniscus tear may also be referred to as “torn cartilage” in the knee. While anyone can tear their meniscus, this injury is most likely to happen in athletes who play contact sports. It can also happen in older people. 

How does a meniscus tear happen?

Your knee joint is formed where three bones come together – your thighbone (femur), shinbone (tibia), and kneecap (patella). The meniscus is made up of two wedge-shaped pieces of cartilage that act like shock absorbers between the thighbone and shinbone, helping stabilize and cushion the joint. 

Sudden meniscus tears often happen during a contact sport like football or when a person changes direction suddenly while running. It can also happen in sports that require a lot of jumping and squatting like volleyball, basketball, or soccer. 

A degenerative meniscus tear happens more gradually and can happen in older people when knee cartilage has weakened over time. This can cause tearing when the person does something simple, like getting up out of a chair. 

What are the symptoms of a meniscus tear?

When meniscus tears happen suddenly, people may hear a “popping” sound as the injury happens. Other symptoms of a meniscus tear include:

  • Pain in the knee
  • Swelling
  • Knee mobility issues, such as difficulty bending or straightening your leg
  • Difficulty moving your knee 

The pain isn’t always that serious right away, but it tends to get worse over time as the knee becomes more inflamed. If a meniscus tear isn’t treated, a piece of the meniscus could drift into the joint, which may cause your knee to slip or lock.

How do doctors diagnose a meniscus tear?

Doctors usually diagnose a meniscus tear with a physical examination. A doctor will often check for tenderness on the joint where the meniscus sits. They also perform a test called the McMurray test, bending, straightening, and rotating your knee. If there is a clicking sound during this test, it can signal a meniscus tear.   

Your doctor may also order imaging tests, like an x-ray or MRI, to rule out other causes of your symptoms.

Beaumont offers treatment for meniscus tears

Beaumont knee specialists can help you determine the best course of action for your meniscus tear. Treatment for a meniscus tear depends on how serious your condition is. People with a small meniscus tear on the outer edge of the meniscus can often care for it on their own by using RICE therapy (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) and taking over-the-counter pain medication. Beaumont’s knee care team will work with you to develop a nonsurgical treatment plan, which may include a pain management program and physical therapy. You’ll receive the kind of expert care you can expect from a top orthopedic program. 

If you have a deeper, more complex meniscus tear, you and your doctor may decide knee surgery is the best treatment option. People with meniscus tears often get arthroscopic knee surgery, where a surgeon inserts a tiny camera to repair or trim the damaged meniscus. At Beaumont, our orthopedic knee surgeons care for patients with a full range of disabling knee joint disorders. Our knee surgeons use the latest technology and techniques combined with decades of experience, and Beaumont is also among a select group of American hospitals approved for advanced fellowship training in both joint reconstruction and sports medicine.

Make an appointment at Beaumont 

If you have knee pain, immobility, or other symptoms of a meniscus tear, contact a Beaumont knee specialist to make an appointment. Our specialists offer a full range of treatments for patients of all ages and all types of knee pain and dysfunction. 

Beaumont’s orthopedic program is available throughout Metro Detroit. No matter which type of knee condition you may have, we have a team of specialists ready to determine the best treatment option for you.

Call 800-633-7377 to make an appointment.