The meniscus is a thick pad of smooth cartilage in your knee which sits between the ends of your shin bone and thigh bone. There are two pads in each knee joint and their main functions are to:
Meniscus cartilage is tough and elastic but can be torn or damaged through trauma or because it’s weakened with wear and tear as you age. A tear will almost always affect the function of your knee and your ability to continue with many activities until it recovers or is repaired.
There are two main causes:
The most common symptoms are:
Other symptoms include:
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Your GP should be able to give you a diagnosis from a simple examination. They'll ask you if there's anything you may have done to cause a meniscus tear, such as a sports injury, and make a physical assessment of your knee.
A torn meniscus will usually recover on its own, particularly in younger people. To allow this to happen you should:
Where a meniscus tear is caused by ageing, symptoms often come and go and your GP will usually advise you to rest your knee and use painkillers at these times.
Cartilage is a tough, protective material which is designed to protect bones for a lifetime. It doesn’t repair or regenerate itself easily so treatment is often about managing symptoms.
Your doctor may recommend surgery if your knee is ‘locked’. This will be performed by arthroscopy, where your consultant uses telescopic instruments to look inside the knee and remove any meniscus cartilage that's preventing movement of your knee joint.
Sometimes, torn meniscus cartilage can be repaired using sutures or stitches to hold it together. Surgeons are also developing new techniques to transplant cartilage.