A torn meniscus is a common injury which usually occurs during the twisting or rotating your knee, causing a certain tissue in the knee to tear. The cartilage in the knee will often tear when it suffers acute trauma, or it is very possible that it may just deteriorate over time. The meniscus sits between the tibia and the femur and protects the lower legs from the shock created by our body weight.


Symptoms may vary from person to person, but some of the most
frequent signs of a meniscus tear are:

  • Pain in the knee joint
  • Swelling
  • Popping sensation (You will definitely feel a pop)
  • Stiffness
  • Limping or difficulty walking
  • Tension while extending or bending the knee

Most people can walk on their injured knee, and athletes may still be able to keep playing with a tear. Over the next few days after a tear, the knee will gradually become swollen and stiff.


A diagnosis for a meniscus tear can often be made during a physical exam by a physician who specializes in orthopedics, along with taking other factors into account, such as the patient’s medical history.  Imaging tests such as X-rays and MRIs may also be necessary if a conclusion cannot be made from a physical evaluation. A torn meniscus won’t show up on X-rays, but this can help rule out other common knee problems. An MRI produces highly detailed images of both hard and soft tissues inside of the knee, making it the most efficient imaging study when it comes to evaluating meniscus damage.

Your doctor may also recommend arthroscopy. This process involves a small incision is made near the knee so an arthroscope may be inserted. It contains a light and a small camera, which can be used to asess any potential knee damage in real time on an external monitor by your doctor.

The symptoms of a meniscus tear sound similar to the symptoms of other medication conditions. Always make sure to discuss with a trusted health care specialist if you suspect an injury may have occurred.

Causes & Risk Factors

Meniscus tears are common in contact sports such as football, and non-contact sports that involve jumping and cutting, such as soccer and basketball. Older athletes are at high risk of this injury because the cartilage in the knee weakens with age and 40% of people 65 years or older have experienced a meniscus tear.


Meniscus tears are difficult to prevent, which is why they are so common, especially with atheletes who play sports that require a lot of cutting, twisting, and squatting. A few ways to lower the risk of a possible knee injury might include:

  • Getting regular exercise
  • Warming up with light activities
  • Resting between your workouts
  • Wearing proper shoes with support and stability

By taking these precautions in your daily activities, you are ensuring that your knees continue to stay as healthy as possible, and it is less likely that you sustain a serious knee injury in the future.


If not treated, part of the meniscus may come loose and slip into the joint. This might require surgery to restore full knee function. Untreated meniscus tears can increase in size and lead to much worse complications, such as arthritis.

Treatment & Recovery

There are different kinds of tears, and it will depend on the size and location of the tear. Some may heal with rest, ice, and medication. This usually happens if the damage is on the outer meniscus due to rich bloody supply. Some tears, such as inner meniscus tears, which lack blood flow and may not heal without surgical repair. In the worst-case scenario, the tear cannot be repaired and may need to be trimmed or removed surgically. Physical therapy is proven to be extremely beneficial for the patient and is the most recommended non-surgical option by practices.

You may be able to return to everyday activities after a few weeks, but it may take several months to regain full control of the knee. 6 months is the recommended amount of time for anyone that has suffered a severe meniscus tear should look to avoid participating in sports or any strenuous labor. Again, it all depends on the severity of the damage, but your knee needs proper time to recover and build the necessary strength back up.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy is one of the many services we offer at our Long Island based practice in Hicksville, and it is the recommended method for post-injury recovery. Restoring your knee back to its normal state is one of the main goals of rehabilitation.

The non-surgical treatment for meniscus tears may include the following:

  • Attending dedicated physical therapy
  • Getting plenty of rest
  • Applying ice
  • Stretching
  • Compression
  • Elevating the knee
  • Taking anti-inflammatory medications
  • Avoiding high impact activities such as running or jumping

There are a handful exercises that you can do to build strength back up in the knee. These include range of motion such as heel slides and prone hangs, quadricep exercises such as quad sets and squats, leg raises, using balance boards, jump lunges, and cycling.

As common as this injury is, a meniscus tear can be a very difficult one to live with. Our team at Hicksville Physical Therapy is trained and ready to help you begin your training program, so you can return to your everyday life and activities as quickly as possible.

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