Knee cartilage tear - aftercare
The meniscus is a c-shaped piece of cartilage in your knee joint. You have two in each knee.
The meniscus forms a cushion between the bones in your knee to protect the joint. The meniscus:
A meniscus tear can occur if you:
As you get older, your meniscus ages too, becoming more brittle and easier to tear.
You may feel a "pop" when a meniscus injury occurs. You also may have:
After examining your knee, your health care provider may order these imaging tests:
If you have a meniscus tear, you may need:
Treatment may depend on your age, activity level, and where the tear occurs. For mild tears, you may be able to treat the injury with rest and self-care.
For other types of tears, or if you are younger in age, you may need knee arthroscopy (surgery) to repair or trim the meniscus. In this type of surgery, small cuts are made to the knee. A small camera and small surgical tools are inserted to repair the tear.
A meniscus transplant may be needed if the meniscus tear is so severe that all or nearly all of the meniscus cartilage is torn or has to be removed. The new meniscus can help with knee pain and possibly prevent future arthritis.
Follow R.I.C.E. to help reduce pain and swelling:
You can use ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn) to reduce pain and swelling. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) helps with pain, but not with swelling. You can buy these pain medicines at the store.
You should not put all of your weight on your leg if it hurts or if your provider tells you not to. Rest and self-care may be enough to allow the tear to heal. You may need to use crutches.
Afterward, you will learn exercises to make the muscles, ligaments, and tendons around your knee stronger, more flexible, and more resistant to injury.
If you have surgery, you may need physical therapy to regain the full use of your knee. Recovery can take a few weeks to a few months. Under your provider's guidance, you should be able to do the same activities you did before.
Contact your provider if:
If you have surgery, contact your surgeon if you have:
Lento P, Marshall B, Akuthota V. Meniscal injuries. In: Frontera WR, Silver JK, Rizzo TD Jr, eds. Essentials of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 72.
Phillips BB, Mihalko MJ. Arthroscopy of the lower extremity. In: Azar FM, Beaty JH, eds. Campbell's Operative Orthopaedics. 14th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 51.
Ruzbarsky JJ, Maak TG, Rodeo SA. Meniscal injuries. In: Miller MD, Thompson SR, eds. DeLee, Drez, & Miller's Orthopaedic Sports Medicine. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 94.BACK TO TOP
Review Date: 4/24/2023
Reviewed By: C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, San Francisco, CA. Also reviewed by David C. Dugdale, MD, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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