Common Signs You Could Have a Torn Meniscus

By | January 2, 2019

What is that nagging knee pain? Doctors reveal most frequently seen torn meniscus symptoms and what exactly to do about it.

What is a meniscus?

Runner listening to music while jogging on sidewalk, cropped image.Martin Novak/Shutterstock

It’s a piece of cartilage in your knee provides a cushion between your shin and thigh bones. Your meniscus helps promote overall joint health, specifically when it comes to your knees, says James Starman, MD an orthopedic surgeon at OrthoCarolina in North Carolina and member of the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine. Each knee has two menisci: a medial one on the inside of the knee and a lateral meniscus on the outside of the knee. Both meniscus’ are C-shaped and they help absorb force in the knee and stabilize the joint, Dr. Starman says.

You really depend on it

Men's legs swimming underwater in the swimming pool in summerKateryna Mostova/Shutterstock

Without your meniscus, cartilage lining the knee bone, your femur (thighbone), tibia (shinbone), and kneecap would take on an excessive amount of force, Naresh Rao, DO, FAOSM, team physician for the men’s U.S. water polo team and partner at Sports Medicine at Chelsea in New York City says. Over time, handling all of this extra weight leads to degenerative joint disease like osteoarthritis. Learn exactly how osteoarthritis affects your joints.

Causes of a meniscus tear

Problems with joints in athletes after jogging. Outdoor shot, morning. Spring or summerKhosro/Shutterstock

“There are two types of meniscus tears, generally speaking,” says Dr. Starman. “Those which are caused by a traumatic event, and those that are related to underlying arthritis or degenerative changes of the knee.” Dr. Rao adds that a traumatic event can be a twist while running or playing a sport, while degenerative knee refers to damage caused over time—it turns up in runners, for example. “When the leg is not strong enough to do the desired activity, this can lead to the wearing away of the meniscus,” Dr. Rao says.

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