Medial Meniscus Tear

What is a Meniscus? 

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. They are sometimes called "meniscuses" but the correct plural spelling is menisci. 

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.  


What is a Meniscus Tear?

The quick answer is that a meniscus tear can occur when the knee is suddenly twisted while the foot is planted. 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 knee's anatomy, please go to KNEE Anatomy.

Image of 6 meniscus tears with illustrations of all

The Medial Meniscus Tear

The medial meniscus is a significant shock absorber on the inside (medial) aspect of the knee joint, and it absorbs about 50% of the medial compartment shock. Thus, when there is a medial knee injury such as a medial meniscus tear, it is essential to repair the tear. If it is not repaired, there will be an increase in the medial compartment load, 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
  • Degenerative

How do Doctors Diagnose a Torn Meniscus or Torn Medial Meniscus?

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 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 diagnose further 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.

medial meniscus tear, lateral meniscus tear, meniscusesMedical Meniscus Tear

Surgical vs. Non-Surgical Rehabilitation for Meniscus Torn in Knee

If a conservative, non-surgical approach is taken, a medial meniscus tear's pain and swelling should resolve within a few days. Recovery and rehabilitation become a long-term commitment, 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 the 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.

2 menisci or meniscuses. It is Image of a meniscus with a tear and a meniscus repair. Meniscus is often misspelled as miniscis, miniscus, and maniscus.Medial Meniscus Tear

After surgery, once the swelling in the knee joint resolves, the goal of therapy is to increase the strength of the knee's muscles, return the range of motion to normal, and promote and preserve the joint's stability. 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 recovery time.  Other factors 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.

Related Articles: 

Meniscal tear

Lateral meniscus tear

Types meniscus tears

To schedule for JOI Rehab for Physical Therapy, please call 904-858-7045.  To learn more about direct access to JOI Rehab for physical therapy, please read Direct Access

If you think you have a medial meniscus tear and need to see a Knee Specialist, make an appointment by calling (904)JOI-2000, schedule online, or click below.

By: Matt Paulus, MS, ATC

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