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Do You Need Surgery If You Tear Your Meniscus

The meniscus is the cartilage that cushions the knee joint. Forceful twisting of the knee can sometimes lead to a tear. You may hear a pop if this occurs from a traumatic event. Long term wear and tear can also lead to meniscal tears.

Symptoms usually include:

  • Swelling/stiffness

  • Popping sensation

  • Feeling like your knee gets stuck or locked in a certain position

  • Difficulty fully bending or straightening the knee

  • Difficulty or pain with kneeling

  • Pain with twisting or pivoting on your knee

  • Feeling like your knee will give out or buckle

Depending on the type of tear and its severity will determine if your knee will heal on it's own with conservative treatment, like physical therapy, or require surgery. Location of the tear also impacts the tissue's ability to heal. The outer portion of the meniscus receives blood supply; this has a greater opportunity to heal, or likelihood of performing a meniscal repair within surgery- meaning stitching the torn piece. The inner portion is avascular, meaning a tear in this location will likely result in cutting the piece out.

Some people respond very well to physical therapy and get out of pain even with a torn meniscus. This should be your first line of defense in healing an injured body part because the only side effect is proper exercise and education. Most surgeons require PT before surgery because it helps make you stronger and recover faster afterwards.

Depending on someone's goals and present limitations, or if they did not see as much progress with conservative treatment, may benefit from surgery. Depending on the type of procedure performed by your surgeon will dictate how soon you can put weight through your leg, how much you can bend it, and when you can begin strengthening it after surgery. Your physician should provide a protocol after the operation for you to give to your physical therapist. Then we will be able to instruct you on what movements are safe and how to help you fully recover.

If you have specific questions about your knee pain, feel free to contact me at:


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