Medial Meniscus Tear

What is a Meniscus Tear? 

The quick answer is the menisci— the medial meniscus and lateral meniscus- are crescent-shaped bands of thick, rubbery cartilage attached to the shinbone (tibia). They act as the major shock absorbers of the knee. The medial meniscus is located on the inside part of the knee joint. 

The lateral meniscus is located on the outside part of the knee. Meniscus tears can vary widely in size and severity. A meniscus can be split in half, ripped around its circumference in the shape of a C or left hanging by a thread to the knee joint.  

The quick answer is a meniscus tear can occur when the knee is suddenly twisted while the foot is planted on the ground. Such has a quick pivot on a basketball court or taking a hard tackle while the leg is planted can cause a meniscus tear. Moving forward, we will be discussing the medial meniscus tear.  If you would like to learn more about the anatomy of the knee, please go to KNEE Anatomy.

Meniscus Tear or Meniscal TearMeniscus Anatomy

The Medial Meniscus Tear

The medial meniscus is a very important shock absorber on the inside (medial) aspect of the knee joint and it absorbs about 50% of the shock of the medial compartment. Thus, when there is a medial knee injury such as a medial meniscus tear, it is very important to try to repair the tear. If it is not repaired, there will be an increase to the load on the medial compartment, which ultimately leads to osteoarthritis.

A medial meniscus tear is more common than a lateral meniscus tear, because it is firmly attached to the deep medial collateral ligament and the joint capsule. If your MD had diagnosed you with a medial meniscus tear they might use one of these terms. 

A medial meniscus tear appears in a variety of patterns such as Longitudinal, Bucket-handle, Displaced bucket handle, Displaced flap, Horizontal, and Degenerative.


How do Doctors Diagnose a Medial Meniscus Tear?

How do doctors diagnose knee injuries?  The quick answer is the diagnosis of a medial meniscus tear begins with a history and physical examination. If there is an acute injury, the doctor will ask about how the injury happened to help understand the stresses that were placed on the knee. 

With chronic knee complaints, the initial injury may not be remembered, but with a historical examination, especially with athletes, a time and place could be remembered. Most doctors after the physical examination might prescribe an MRI and X-ray to further diagnose whether you had a medial meniscus tear. 

If your doctor has clinically diagnosed you with a medial meniscus tear, knee surgery might be the next step in your recovery.

Meniscus Tear or Meniscal TearAnatomy of the Knee and Meniscus

What is Rehabilitation and Recovery like for surgical vs. non-surgical Patients?

If a conservative, non-surgical approach is taken, the pain and swelling of a medial meniscus tear should resolve within a few days. Recovery and rehabilitation become a long-term commitment, as does making certain that the muscles surrounding the knee are kept strong to promote joint stability.

If knee arthroscopy is performed, the rehabilitation process begins.The goal is to return range of motion to the knee as soon as possible. Physical therapy is an important part of the surgery process, and most therapists work with the orthopedic surgeon to return the patient to full function as soon as possible.

After surgery, once the swelling in the knee joint resolves, the goal of therapy is to increase the strength of the muscles surrounding the knee, return range of motion to normal, and promote and preserve stability of the joint. The torn meniscus recovery time will depend on whether or not the meniscus was repaired or debrided.  With a meniscus repair, there is a period of time of non-weight bearing on the involved knee to allow for better healing.  This increases the recovery time.  There are other factors which play an important role in the recovery time after this injury.

  1. Age of the patient.
  2. The location of the meniscus tear.
  3. How much of the meniscus is torn and the type of tear.
  4. Other injured ligaments or tendons in the knee.

If you think you have a medial meniscus tear and you need to see a Knee Specialist, please call JOI-2000, schedule online or click below

JOI MD's are now offering Telemedicine and ASAP Fracture and Injury care for those who would like to avoid the ER. Make an appointment by calling (904)JOI-2000, schedule online or click below

By: Matt Paulus, MS, ATC

See a Knee Specialist

Book Appointment


Font Resize
Contrast