Meniscal Tear Symptoms

By Andrew Heideman PT/ATC

What is the Meniscus?

The meniscus is cartilage in your knee, which acts as a cushion for the joint and stabilizes the joint. The cartilage forms a barrier between the femur and the tibia to protect these two bones from wear and tear on each other.

3D image of Meniscal Tear Symptoms

Meniscal Tear Causing Knee Pain.

How does a Menisci Tear Occur?

One of the major reasons menisci tears occur is from sporting activities. Activities that involve forcefully twisting or rotating from the knee, such as playing football and performing a pivoting or juking movement, can cause a possible tear. Common activities we perform daily, such as deep squatting or lifting a heavy object, can also contribute to a menisci tear. Degenerative changes, wear, and tear in older adults are also common factors of developing tears.

Types of Menisci Tears

A bucket handle tear is a torn segment of the meniscus that pulls away, forming a handle shaped segment. Typically this occurs in younger adults who participate in sports and requires surgery.

A radial tear is a minor or short tear that extends from the inner meniscus to the outer meniscus. May or may not require surgery depending on symptoms.

Flap tear is a short horizontal segmental tear with either superior or inferior displacement. May or may not require surgery depending on symptoms.

Degenerative Tear, also known as wear and tear, occurs throughout a period of time due to our knees’ repetitive use.

Meniscal Tear Symptoms

image of woman with Meniscal Tear Symptoms

Pain while walking

Meniscal tear symptoms are not very prevalent upon the occurrence of the injury. However, if you do have a torn meniscus, the following symptoms are what you might expect to experience:

  • Pain with running, walking or standing for long durations.
  • Typically, intermittent swelling of the knee joint, patients will complain of “tightness” in the knee joint.
  • Popping can occur with ascending and descending stairs or squatting.
  • The sensation of the knee locking (difficulty fully straightening or extending the knee). This symptom contributes to a piece of torn meniscus folding on itself and blocking the knee joint from fully moving.
  • Buckling or feeling of your knee is giving way or unable to support you.

Recovery From Meniscal Tears

If you do have a meniscus tear, the recovery can vary depending on the type of tear and whether the tear requires surgery. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms above, you should follow up with an orthopedic knee specialist for an assessment.

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