Condition Basics

What is a meniscus tear?

A meniscus tear is a common knee injury. The meniscus is a rubbery, C-shaped disc that cushions your knee. Each knee has two menisci (plural of meniscus)—one at the outer edge of the knee and one at the inner edge. They keep your knee steady by balancing your weight across the knee. A torn meniscus can prevent your knee from working right.

What causes it?

A meniscus tear is usually caused by twisting or turning quickly, often with your foot planted while your knee is bent. Meniscus tears can occur when you lift something heavy or play sports. As you get older, your meniscus gets worn. This can make it tear more easily.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of a meniscus tear depend on the size of the tear. Small tears may cause a little swelling and some pain. Larger tears usually cause more pain, swelling, and stiffness. The knee may catch, pop, or lock. It may be hard to walk.

How is it diagnosed?

Your doctor will ask questions about your knee and what you were doing when it started to hurt. He or she will look at both knees and check for tenderness and range of motion and see how stable your knee is. You may also have X-rays or an MRI.

How is a meniscus tear treated?

Treatment may include resting your knee, using ice on it, wrapping it with an elastic bandage, and propping it up on pillows. It may also include physical therapy and surgery. Your treatment depends on the type of tear, where it is, and how serious it is. It also depends on your age and how active you are.