PT Tip of the Month Archive

Meniscal Tears


Meniscal tear typesMenisci (plural of meniscus) are C-shaped pieces of fibrocartilage that are located within the knee. Both the medial and lateral meniscus lie between the femur (thigh bone) and tibia (shin bone). The menisci perform many functions but their primary purpose is to protect the articular cartilage that covers the boney surfaces within the knee. While you are standing, the menisci help to disperse 50 % of the compressive forces that your body places on your knees. Up to 85% of these forces pass through the menisci when you are squatting (with knees bent to 90 degrees). Both the medial and lateral meniscus play a role in shock absorption, joint lubrication, and joint stability as well.

How do they occur?

Meniscal tears commonly occur when someone has their foot planted on the ground and has their knee hit by another person. Tears can also happen when someone is turning, twisting, or changing direction quickly with their feet planted.

Knee anatomy anterior viewAge can also contribute to the likelihood of developing a meniscal injury. As the meniscal tissue ages, it can begin to degenerate and fray. This can lead to a meniscal tear without any serious trauma involved.


The most common symptoms of a meniscus tear are pain and swelling in the knee. Pain is typically felt along the inside or outside of the knee where the femur and tibia meet. Common activities such as going up or down stairs, squatting, or turning with the feet planted can cause pain. Sensations of popping, clicking, or locking within the knee are also very common.


The treatment of a meniscal tear can vary depending on the size, location, type, and age of the tear. Blood supply to each meniscus is limited to the outer 1/3rd and therefore the potential for healing is greatest in this area. Meniscal tears that are traumatic and recent are more likely to heal than older, degenerative tears.

Superior view meniscal tearDespite the location or severity of the tear, physical therapy is often the first course of treatment. Physical therapy can help restore strength, flexibility, and ROM while helping to reduce pain and inflammation. If conservative treatment doesn't produce the desired results, undergoing surgery to remove or repair the torn meniscus may be recommended. Post-operatively, physical therapy will help to ensure a safe return to your favorite activities.

f you believe that you have a meniscal tear, please contact your physician or one of our two locations to set up an evaluation by one of our licensed physical therapists. We can assist you in determining a plan of care that will best meet your needs and goals.

33 Pond Avenue, Suite 107B Brookline, MA 02445 Tel: (617) 232-PAIN (7246) Fax: (617) 232-5196
1208B VFW Parkway, Suite 202 West Roxbury, MA 02132 Tel: (617) 325-PAIN (7246) Fax: (617) 325-7282