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Meniscal injury

Torn meniscus or locked knee

A common sports injury caused by twisting the knee with some force — this causes a swollen and painful knee joint

About

A meniscus tear is a common sports injury, and can affect people of all ages. The menisci (plural of meniscus) are c-shaped structures which protect the knee. In younger people, they are tough and rubbery but can tear when twisted with force. In older people, the menisci become less elastic and can be torn during milder activity such as squats.

Need to know

  • Symptoms of meniscal injury icon plus

    The menisci are rubbery, C-shaped discs that cushion your knee. Each knee has two menisci — one at the outer edge of the knee and one at the inner edge. They can become torn when twisting or turning quickly when the knee is bent. This usually occurs during sports or when lifting something. Symptoms of a meniscal injury are:

    • knee pain gets that worse days after the injury
    • a sharp pain when twisting the knee or squatting
    • a swollen knee joint, which feels wobbly and stiff
    • a popping or locking sensation within the knee

    In some cases pieces of the meniscus can become caught in the knee joint. This can stop the leg from straightening fully.

  • Screening and diagnosis icon plus

    First of all, a doctor will carry out a physical exam on your knee to see how well you can move it. They will also ask you which activities you were doing when your knee began to hurt, and whether you have any past injuries. If your doctor suspects you have a meniscal tear, they may recommend an X-ray or MRI scan. This will help them see the extent of the tear and whether the torn meniscus has moved to the joint. If the joint is obstructed and locked, they may recommend surgery.
  • Potential treatment options icon plus

    It's important to reduce the pain and swelling in the knee, so your doctor will recommend anti-inflammatory medications and ice packs in the first instance. This helps to settle the symptoms of meniscal tears in most people. If your knee is locked, your doctor may recommend surgery to remove the portion of the meniscus caught in the knee joint. Here, keyhole surgery is carried out on the knee using the arthroscope  a small TV camera. This is passed into the joint so that the surgeon can remove the torn portion of meniscus. In some cases, the meniscus can be repaired. This is not usually possible in older people as the meniscus has become worn.
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This content is intended for general information only and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional.
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