The meniscus is a fibro-cartilaginous tissue that has a semi-lunar appearance. This tissue is found in the space between the end of the femur (thigh bone) and top of the tibia (shin bone). It acts distribute pressure across a broader surface area of cartilage.
A meniscus can tear as a result of trauma such as a violent, twisting movement to the knee or as the result of repetitive micro-trauma it sustains through one’s lifetime. The tissue itself can also undergo degeneration, which will affect its mechanical properties and predispose it to a tear. A meniscus tear can occur in isolation or can be associated with damage to ligaments such as the ACL or in arthritic states of the knee. Some meniscus tears can become displaced and get entrapped between the bones. This can be improved with minimally invasive meniscus surgery. Some patients may improve with physical therapy and potentially an injection.
Pain or discomfort associated with a meniscus tear is usually described as a sharp, stabbing type of discomfort. It can also be a dull type pain or even burning. It can affect the inner or outer aspect of the knee. Patients may experience a sense of clicking, ratcheting or catching inside the knee. In severe cases the knee can lock up as a result of a meniscus tear fragment getting entrapped in between the bones. Swelling commonly accompanies meniscus tears. Many of these symptoms will increase or worsen when patients go up or down stairs or squat and bend their knees deep. Twisting motions can also make these symptoms worse.