One of the most common knee injuries is a torn meniscus. The meniscus is a c-shaped disc that cushions and stabilizes the bones of the knee. There are two menisci lying opposite each other on the inside and the outside of the joint. Tears can be caused by a number of issues, and are more likely as we age. Meniscus tears range from a minor, short-term inconvenience to a serious injury that requires significant recuperation and physical therapy or even surgery.

Causes of Injury

A meniscus tear often results from sudden trauma during heavy work or sporting activities. Frequently, this condition arises with rapid twisting of the knee when the foot is planted and the lower leg resists twisting motion. Tears can also occur during heavy lifting or at any time when the knee is bent and under strain.


Symptoms are dependent on the location and severity of the tear and also on any other damage that may occur. In many cases meniscus tears are accompanied by injury to other components of the knee such as the medial collateral ligaments or MCL. When a meniscus tear is minor, pain is usually minimal with light swelling and minimal reduction to range of motion. These symptoms normally subside within a couple of days though pain and swelling are likely to recur with bending and twisting of the knee.

With a moderate or severe tear, symptoms are similar but exacerbated.

Swelling, pain and stiffness in the joint increase with the severity and location of the tear, and in the acute cases you may be unable to walk without severe pain. In the worst cases, portions of the torn meniscus can enter the joint space causing the knee to grind, pop or lock in place.


Rest, ice packs and compression can alleviate symptoms and allow the meniscus to heal for minor tears. More severe tears may require arthroscopic or more invasive surgery. In the most severe cases a meniscus may have to be removed, but physicians use this as a last case scenario as sometimes it can lead to arthritis. Typically, a period of physical therapy will be useful to restore strength and range of motion, and the length of therapy depends on the severity and nature of the injury.

Chicago Mencius Treatment

If you are suffering from knee pain in the Chicagoland area, contact an IBJI physician for treatment options.