A meniscus tear is a common knee injury involving the tearing of one of the two C-shaped pieces of cartilage that act as shock absorbers between the thighbone (femur) and the shinbone (tibia). These pieces of cartilage, known as the medial and lateral menisci, help to distribute weight across the knee joint and provide stability.






What is a Meniscus Tear?

A meniscus tear is a common knee injury involving the tearing of one of the two C-shaped pieces of cartilage that act as shock absorbers between the thighbone (femur) and the shinbone (tibia). These pieces of cartilage, known as the medial and lateral menisci, help to distribute weight across the knee joint and provide stability. Meniscus tears can occur during activities that involve twisting or rotating the knee, particularly when putting weight on it, such as in sports like football, basketball, or soccer. This type of injury can affect people of all ages but is particularly prevalent among athletes and older adults due to degenerative changes in the knee cartilage over time.


Symptoms of a Meniscus Tear

The symptoms of a meniscus tear can vary depending on the severity and location of the tear. Common symptoms include:

  • Pain: Typically felt along the inner or outer side of the knee. The pain can be sharp and intense immediately after the injury, often subsiding into a more persistent ache.
  • Swelling: This may occur within the first 24 hours after the injury, as the knee responds to the damage.
  • Stiffness: The knee may feel stiff, making it difficult to move through its full range of motion.
  • Locking or Catching: Some people experience a sensation of the knee locking or catching, making it difficult to fully straighten or bend the knee.
  • Instability: A feeling of the knee giving way or being unstable can occur, particularly during activities that require weight-bearing or twisting motions.


Can a Torn Meniscus Cause Hip Pain

While a torn meniscus is primarily associated with knee pain, it can also contribute to hip pain. This secondary hip pain can occur due to altered gait mechanics as the body compensates for the knee injury. When the knee is injured, individuals may unconsciously change the way they walk to avoid pain, leading to additional stress and strain on the hip joint. This altered movement can result in hip pain and discomfort over time. Moreover, inflammation and swelling from the knee injury can sometimes affect surrounding structures, including the hip.


Types of Meniscus Tear

Meniscus tears can be classified into several types based on their appearance and location. The main types include:

  • Radial Tear: A tear that extends from the inner edge of the meniscus outward, resembling the spokes of a wheel. These tears are typically perpendicular to the circumference of the meniscus.
  • Horizontal Tear: A tear that occurs along the horizontal plane of the meniscus, splitting it into top and bottom sections. This type of tear often leads to the formation of a flap.
  • Flap Tear: A fragment of the meniscus becomes detached and may move into the knee joint, causing locking or catching sensations.
  • Complex Tear: This type involves multiple tear patterns within the meniscus and is often seen in degenerative menisci.
  • Bucket-Handle Tear: A specific type of longitudinal tear where a portion of the meniscus becomes displaced, resembling a handle on a bucket. This can cause significant knee locking and instability.
  • Degenerative Tear: Common in older adults, these tears result from wear and tear over time rather than a specific injury event.


How is a Meniscus Tear Treated

Treatment for a meniscus tear depends on various factors, including the type, size, and location of the tear, as well as the patient’s age, activity level, and overall health. Treatment options include:

  • Rest and Activity Modification: Avoiding activities that exacerbate symptoms can help reduce pain and swelling.
  • Ice Therapy: Applying ice packs to the knee for 20 minutes at a time, several times a day, can help manage swelling and pain.
  • Compression and Elevation: Using an elastic bandage and keeping the knee elevated can aid in reducing swelling.
  • Medications: Over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen can help manage pain and inflammation.
  • Physical Therapy: A structured rehabilitation program focusing on strengthening the muscles around the knee, improving flexibility, and restoring range of motion.
  • Injections: Corticosteroid or hyaluronic acid injections may be used to reduce inflammation and provide temporary pain relief.

In cases where conservative treatments are ineffective or the tear is severe, surgical options may be considered:

  • Arthroscopic Surgery: A minimally invasive procedure where small instruments and a camera are inserted into the knee to repair or remove the torn meniscus.
  • Meniscus Repair: Suturing the torn pieces back together. This is more likely to be successful in younger patients and in tears located in areas with good blood supply.
  • Meniscectomy: Removing the damaged part of the meniscus. This can be a partial or total removal, depending on the extent of the tear.
  • Meniscus Transplantation: In cases where the meniscus is extensively damaged and cannot be repaired, a donor meniscus may be transplanted into the knee.


Can I Run With a Torn Meniscus

Running with a torn meniscus is generally not recommended, especially if the tear is causing significant pain, swelling, or instability. Continuing to run can worsen the tear and potentially lead to further damage to the knee joint. It is important to consult with a healthcare provider to determine the severity of the tear and receive appropriate treatment. In some cases, a period of rest and rehabilitation may allow for a gradual return to running, but this should be done under the guidance of a medical professional and a physical therapist to ensure that the knee is strong and stable enough to handle the stress of running.


Can a Torn Meniscus Heal on its Own

Whether a torn meniscus can heal on its own depends on the location and severity of the tear. Tears located in the outer third of the meniscus, known as the “red zone,” have a better chance of healing on their own because this area has a good blood supply. Conversely, tears in the inner two-thirds, known as the “white zone,” are less likely to heal naturally due to poor blood supply. Small, stable tears may heal with conservative treatments such as rest, ice, compression, elevation, and physical therapy. However, larger or more complex tears often require surgical intervention to heal properly.


Meniscus Tear Surgery

When conservative treatments fail to relieve symptoms or if the meniscus tear is severe, surgery may be necessary. Meniscus tear surgery is typically performed arthroscopically, involving small incisions and the use of a camera and specialized instruments. The main types of meniscus tear surgery include:

  • Meniscus Repair: This procedure involves suturing the torn pieces of the meniscus back together. It is most successful for tears in the red zone, where there is adequate blood supply for healing. Meniscus repair has the advantage of preserving the meniscus, which is important for long-term knee health. However, the recovery period is longer compared to other surgical options.
  • Partial Meniscectomy: In this procedure, the surgeon removes the damaged portion of the meniscus while preserving as much of the healthy tissue as possible. Partial meniscectomy is often performed for tears in the white zone or for complex tears that cannot be repaired. Recovery is generally quicker than meniscus repair, but removing meniscal tissue can increase the risk of osteoarthritis in the long term.
  • Total Meniscectomy: This involves the complete removal of the meniscus and is rarely performed due to the significant impact on knee function and the high risk of developing arthritis.
  • Meniscus Transplantation: For patients with severe meniscal damage, meniscus transplantation may be an option. This involves replacing the damaged meniscus with a donor meniscus. It is typically reserved for younger patients with a stable knee joint and no significant arthritis.


Recovery and Rehabilitation

Post-surgery, a comprehensive rehabilitation program is crucial for restoring knee function and strength. The rehabilitation process typically involves:

  • Immobilization: Initially, the knee may be immobilized in a brace to allow for healing.
  • Physical Therapy: Gradual exercises to improve range of motion, strength, and stability. The focus will be on strengthening the muscles around the knee, particularly the quadriceps and hamstrings.
  • Weight-Bearing: Depending on the type of surgery, weight-bearing may be restricted initially, with a gradual progression to full weight-bearing activities.
  • Return to Activity: The timeline for returning to sports or other high-impact activities varies based on the type of surgery and the individual’s progress in rehabilitation. Meniscus repair typically requires a longer recovery period compared to partial meniscectomy.



A meniscus tear is a common knee injury that can significantly impact mobility and quality of life. Understanding the symptoms, types, and treatment options is essential for effective management and recovery. While conservative treatments may be sufficient for some tears, others may require surgical intervention. Proper diagnosis and a tailored treatment plan, including rehabilitation, are crucial for achieving the best possible outcome and returning to an active lifestyle.