A meniscus tear is a common knee injury. A tear is usually caused by twisting or turning quickly, often with the foot planted while the knee is bent. The meniscus is a rubbery, C-shaped disc that cushions your knee. Meniscus tears can occur when you lift something heavy or play sports. As you get older, your meniscus gets worn. This can make it tear more easily.

There are three types of meniscus tears. Each has its own set of symptoms.

  • Minor tear. You may have slight pain and swelling. This usually goes away in two to three weeks.
  • Moderate tear. Swelling slowly gets worse over two or three days. This may make your knee feel stiff and limit how you can bend it. But walking is usually possible. These symptoms may go away in one to two weeks, but can come back if you twist or overuse your knee. The pain may come and go for years if the tear isn't treated.
  • Severe tear. Pieces of the torn meniscus can move into the joint space. This can make your knee catch, pop, or lock. You may not be able to straighten it. Your knee may feel "wobbly" or give way without warning. It may swell and become stiff right after the injury or within two or three days.

How is a meniscus tear treated?

How your doctor treats your meniscus tear depends on several things, such as the type of tear, where it is, and how serious it is. Your age and how active you are may also affect your treatment choices.

Treatment may include:

  • Rest, ice, wrapping the knee with an elastic bandage, and propping up the leg on pillows
  • Physical therapy
  • Surgery to repair the meniscus
  • Knee surgery to remove part of the meniscus