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Meniscus Tear Symptoms And Recovery Explained

Updated on September 13, 2011

Meniscus Tear Symptoms

Many people who are active in sports are prone to tearing the meniscus, which is commonly referred to (a little erroneously) as a torn cartilage, though it can happen to anybody, and is particularly common in older people due to the natural wear and tear of the knee joint over time.

The knee actually hosts two separate menisci (the medial meniscus on the inside and the lateral meniscus on the outside), which serve to evenly distribute your body weight on the joints in your knee. If one of the menisci is torn the ability of the knee to sustain your weight may be compromised, and become sore and swollen. If you have recently twisted your knee awkwardly and felt the onset of pain and swelling, you may consider a torn meniscus a candidate in a diagnosis.

In this article I will outline the most common meniscus tear symptoms and talk briefly about how to relieve pain and steps to take towards recovery.

The anatomy of an undamaged meniscus.
The anatomy of an undamaged meniscus. | Source


Meniscus tear symptoms can be quite general, and so a doctor will examine the knee with a tear in mind. The pain and symptoms are relative to the size of the tear itself, with small tears producing a fraction of the pain of larger tears. Nevertheless, victims often complain of the following:

  • Knee pain while walking, larger tears may make putting your entire body weight on the joint impossible.
  • Rigidity and stiffness of the joint.
  • Swelling.
  • Knee buckling.
  • Knee may be painful and sore to the touch.
  • At the time of the injury or incident that led to the tear, often a clicking or popping can be felt occurring within the joint.

Don't forget R.I.C.E!

RICE is the acronym used to denote what steps should be taken immediately after injury, and stands for:

  • Rest.
  • Ice.
  • Compression.
  • Elevation.

Meniscus Tear Recovery

Attempting to ignore the pain and placing pressure on the join can exacerbate the symptoms and make things worse (permanent damage). Unfortunately, recovery from a meniscus tear will almost always require medical intervention. At best, your doctor will recommend physical therapy in the case of smaller tears, but larger tears can involve corrective orthopedic surgery and can lead to a recovery-time of around a month.

A trip to a doctor will make diagnosis certain, with an array of tests that can be used. From the McMurray test, where orthopedic surgeons will twist the knee and look for a click, to MRI scans and X-rays.

Signs You're Getting Better

Smaller tears may right themselves slowly with time with some mild physical therapy, but it is common for people to jump-the-gun and begin to put too much pressure on their recovering joint too fast, and risk further injury. Once you've noticed the following signs, know that you're on the road to recovery:

  • Straightening your knee no longer causes pain and discomfort.
  • Standing tall and distributing your body weight equally down both legs makes both of your knee joints feel equally comfortable (in the case of a single meniscus tear).
  • Everyday exercise causes no discomfort. Look for any symptoms, no matter how mild.
  • No re-occurrence of swelling and inflammation.
  • No occurrence of pain.
  • Your gut instinct!

Thank you very much for taking the time to read this article! I hope it has been of use in helping you shape an opinion regarding your, or someone else's injury (though it should not be used as a substitute for medical advice!).


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    • thooghun profile image

      James D. Preston 6 years ago from Rome, Italy

      The pigeon pose? Now, I'm intrigued :D Thanks for your comment and time Anna!

    • profile image

      Anna Gambier 6 years ago

      I had this a while ago from a yoga injury (the dreaded 'Pigeon Pose!), thankfully it was very small and minor and healed itself quite quickly, but then within a couple of weeks it came back – I jumped the gun, as you say and tried to do too much too soon. At the time it happened I could find hardly anything on meniscus tears on the internet, wish I’d found this :)

    • thooghun profile image

      James D. Preston 6 years ago from Rome, Italy

      Wow thank you all for your personal insights, I was not expecting such attention! You've made me smile, thanks all!

    • profile image

      MARILYN FRANCIS 6 years ago


    • dallas93444 profile image

      Dallas W Thompson 6 years ago from Bakersfield, CA

      This article is particularly meaningful because I have just experienced two knee operations to the same knee within the last nine months from torn miniscus... I will investigate further and consult with my doctor... Flag up and "useful!"

    • VENZKHVAM profile image

      VENZKHVAM 6 years ago from Milk way galaxy, trying to find a more adventurous place in another galaxy with my great followers

      Dear Thooghun,

      It is really a coincidence last month i met with an accident and my lateral collateral ligament an medical collateral ligaments are broken and iam under rest to recover from that. Two way are there one to let it naturally heal another is to do surgery if it is complete tear.

      This is a useful hub for many a sports guys and who ever doing exercise fast movements.

      And when ever it happens you should not bend hour knees and put ice packs on the knee surface every half an hour to avoid internal bleeding.

      I was really excited when i saw this hub as i was undergoing the suffering of the tear.In the accident my bones got lucky and by gods grace.

      I had voted this up and useful.

      I am following you with pleasure.

      I invite you to read my three hubs and leave your valuable comments. I am eager to hear from you.