What is a meniscus?

In your knee, there is an inner and outer meniscus (medial and lateral meniscus).

The menisci (plural of meniscus) are specialized soft tissue composed primarily of collagen and water. The menisci sit between the cartilage of the thigh bone (femur) and shin bone (tibia), protecting the knee joint cartilage. It acts as shock absorbers and help to make knee movements smooth and contribute to the overall stability of the knee.

How do you injure your meniscus?

Meniscal tears occur due to shear forces between the thigh bone and shin bone.

Typically, an acute tear occurs during a forceful, twisting knee movement whilst the foot is still on the ground.

Meniscal tears can also occur without an acute severe injury. In some cases, a tear develops due to gradual wear and tear (degeneration), especially in older population as the worn meniscus tissue is more prone to tears. A seemingly minor incident may cause a meniscus tear in the older population.

Torn meniscus


Common symptoms include:

  • pain, especially during deep knee bending
  • swelling
  • stiffness
  • catching/clicking
  • giving way of your knee


Meniscus tears are typically diagnosed using a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan.

This scan allows me to look for other structures that may have been injured with your meniscus, such as the ligaments or the joint cartilage.

Treatment for meniscus tear

Treatment depends on the type and location of the tear, your activity levels, and your symptoms. It is important to know that even if you have been diagnosed with a meniscus tear, it does not necessarily mean you will need to have surgery.

Non-surgical treatments are frequently successful in patients with certain types of tears.

Early treatment modalities include a RICE regime (rest, ice, compression, and elevation) for 48 hours.

Concomitant simple pain medications such as paracetamol and anti-inflammatory drugs can relieve pain and inflammation. Physiotherapy is very useful, and a dedicated program focusing on range of motion, proprioceptive work, and muscle strengthening exercises should be implemented as early as possible. I may recommend a period of activity modification – such as having time off from sports or heavy physical work.

Surgical treatment may be recommended by your general practitioner, physiotherapist/sports medicine physician, or myself if you are having ongoing symptoms for more than 6 weeks, despite adherence to non-surgical treatment.

Surgical treatment involves keyhole surgery, where a special camera and surgical instruments are used to either remove (meniscus debridement) or repair the damaged part of the meniscus.

The decision to remove or repair your meniscus tear will depend on the size, location, and type of your meniscus tear. Both types of treatments will have different implications for your knee. During your consultation, I will go through these factors with you, and recommend the best treatment option tailored to your injury.

Watch the Miniscal Repair animation video:

Reproduced with permission from Arthrex © 2023 Arthrex Inc.


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Elmwood Orthopaedics
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Saint Albans, Christchurch 8014