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What is a Meniscal Tear?

What is a Meniscal Tear?

The menisci are two C-shaped cartilage structures within the knee joint which are key in the stability of the knee.

Tears can occur within these structures and can be caused by degenerative or traumatic mechanisms such as a big twisting injury.  During a traumatic meniscal injury you may also see injuries to other structures such as the cruciate or collateral ligaments which will also require rehabilitation.  

As we get older and our joints undergo the normal changes of wear and tear, the menisci can become more prone to small tears.

Meniscal tears come in all shapes and sizes, there can be tears the whole length of the meniscus (bucket handle tear), a small flap may occur or it may go across the meniscus, the size and position of a meniscal tear will affect the presence and severity of symptoms.

Symptoms of a meniscal tear include pain, clunking, locking of the knee and giving way or a feeling of instability.  Physiotherapists can perform tests to see if a meniscal tear is likely to be causing your symptoms and look at the other structures of the knee as well.  

Meniscal tears are not seen on X-ray as they are not bony structure, but are visible on MRI.

Unfortunately the meniscus is a structure that is not particularly good at healing and the tear is likely to remain and the only way of eliminating the tear completely is by arthroscopic surgery. However, many people find that physiotherapy can alleviate the symptoms of a meniscal tear and strengthen supporting structures sufficiently for them to continue with their normal activities without requiring surgery.  Should they require surgery at a later date, the increased strength and stability in their knee through physiotherapy can provide a better post-surgical ou

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