How To Diagnose and Treat a Medial Meniscus Tear

Medial Meniscus Tear Treatment

The meniscus is a C-shaped piece of cartilage that works to cushion, stabilize and lubricate the joint space. As we get older, these pieces of cartilage degenerate and often develop tears. When the meniscus tears, the damaged part will move into an abnormal position inside the joint and this can impede the use of the knee, can make the joint stiff and cause significant pain during movement. Continue reading to discover more about medial meniscus tear symptoms and how to treat it.

How Does a Meniscus Tear?

A torn medial meniscus generally happens in a couple of common ways. The entire rim of the meniscus can undergo a bucket handle tear where a flap is torn from the inner rim or the meniscus can have a degenerative tear where a portion is frayed or torn in multiple directions. A degenerative tear typically occurs in people who are a bit older while bucket handle tears often occur with athletes who play in racquet sports, soccer, football and basketball. This is because they often require lateral movement and during this movement, if the foot is planted incorrectly and too much force is placed against the leg, the medial meniscus can tear.

Generally, in people younger than 30, the meniscus is fairly tough and rubbery and a twisting force is required to tear. Older athletes may find that the torn medial meniscus is injured through overuse of the knee in their preferred sport.

Medial Meniscus Tear – Symptoms & Diagnosis

People who experience a torn medial meniscus feel a dull and constant pain around the knee when they are at rest. However, the pain changes to sharp pain when the knee is bent such as when walking. If the injury is severe then the pain can be debilitating and leave the person unable to walk. There may also be swelling in the area, although it won’t usually show up for several hours after the injury. Other symptoms include clicking or popping when the knee bends, pain, swelling and possibly the inability to move the knee at all. If you’ve experienced these symptoms but don’t remember sustaining an injury you may very well have suffered degeneration of the medial meniscus giving you the same symptoms.
Doctors use several criteria to diagnose a torn medial meniscus, including:

  • The patient’s history – the physician will try to determine if there was a specific injury to the affected leg, where the pain is located and how long the pain has been affecting you.
  • Physical examination – the doctor will try to determine where the pain is specifically located, if the knee locks and if there are any clicks or pops as the knee is moved about.
  • Imaging studies – MRIs will show the soft tissue damage. X-rays won’t confirm meniscus tears, however they will show other bony abnormalities that are associated with a torn medial meniscus or will at least rule out other bony issues that may cause the similar problems.

Identification and diagnosis of a torn medial meniscus is extremely important before treatment can be started.

Medial Meniscus Tear – Treatment Options

Once the doctor diagnosis a torn medial meniscus they will make recommendations about certain treatment options to improve your chances for a full recovery. These options can include:

  • The standard use of R.I.C.E. to help the inflammatory response. RICE is an acronym for Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. All of these factors decrease the inflammation in the area and help to speed the healing of the body. Details:

    1. Rest the joint by walking the least amount possible.
    2. Ice the knee for 20 minutes 3 times a day.
    3. Elevate the leg as much as possible.
    4. Use of a compression bandage over the knee to help with stability of the joint.

    Below are a few examples of devices that can help with the icing and compression at the same time:

    Shock Doctor ICE Recovery Compression Knee Wrap
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    ActiveWrap Knee Wrap
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  • The use of a knee brace to provide stability and support during the recovery process. Refer to The Best Knee Brace For Meniscus Tears for more information on this option.
  • The services of a chiropractor or physical therapist.
  • For more severe meniscus tears, your doctor may recommend a surgical option. There are normally three types of surgery involving the meniscus:

    1. Partial Menisectomy – Where a portion of the meniscus is removed.
    2. Meniscal repair – Where the torn/broken portion of the meniscus is sutured together.
    3. Mesnical replacement – Where the meniscus is completely removed.

For more detailed information on the types of meniscur surgeries and the expected recovery times, please visit the following site:


A torn medial meniscus can sideline an athlete (or anybody else for that matter) for several weeks while the area is allowed to heal appropriately. Without the proper care and attention to this important structure of the knee, you risk the chance of never returning to your favorite physical activity. If you are ever in doubt, check with your doctor immediately.
Cedars-Sinai: Medial and lateral meniscus Tears
SportsInjuryClinic: Medial Meniscus Tear

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Disclaimer – I am not a doctor and I am not qualified to provide medical advice. The information about medial meniscus tear symptoms and diagnosis mentioned above was posted for informational purposes only and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Until next time!

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2 thoughts on “How To Diagnose and Treat a Medial Meniscus Tear

  1. If you have to go for surgery… do your research and find someone competent. I had a meniscus “clean-up” type surgery 6 months ago and now I’m in more pain because a some of the cartilage was left in.

    1. Great tip Doug. You are not the first person I hear from that’s been in a worse shape after their meniscus surgery. It’s definitely not the norm since a lot of people benefit from it, however you are right, research is very important. Thanks for the feedback.

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