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Symptoms. Meniscus Tear

By Editorial Team (Y)
November 26, 2021

Symptoms of a torn meniscus

Some people hear a popping noise when a meniscus tear happens in their knee. Such torn meniscus symptoms may follow this:

  • Pain in the knee 
  • Swelling around the knee 
  • Decreased mobility in the knee affected by the meniscus tear
  • A sensation of catching or locking up in the knee affected by the meniscus tear
  • A sensation that the knee affected by the meniscus tear is giving out or is severely unstable

If a piece of the knee cartilage has loosened and is obstructing the joint, a meniscus tear may also be accompanied by a sensation of the knee slipping or popping.

Contact your health provider if any of these symptoms of a torn meniscus occur following an injury or if they happen and do not improve within a few days. Also, notify your physician if the mobility in your knee is severely limited. For example, your knee locks up, preventing you from bending your leg.

Torn meniscus diagnosis

Diagnosis of a torn meniscus starts with a physician obtaining the patient’s medical history and performing a physical exam. The physician will attempt to determine the location of the pain, find out if the patient has had any locking of the knee or if there has been any popping or clicking in the knee with movement. X-rays cannot diagnose a torn meniscus because they do not show soft tissues, but they can help rule out other conditions.

An MRI may be recommended if other conditions are suspected in addition to a meniscus tear or if the diagnosis is difficult to determine based on the medical history and physical examination.

  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). This imaging scan is beneficial in diagnosing a torn meniscus. It uses magnetic waves to produce images of the menisci and other soft structures of the knee. This study can determine damage in the ligaments as well as in the tendons. 
  • Ultrasound: An ultrasound might be used if the physician is looking for pieces of cartilage that are blocking the movement of the knee. This study uses sound waves to produce images of the body’s structures. 
  • Arthroscopy. This procedure can diagnose as well as treat a meniscus tear. It is a surgical procedure that involves the insertion of a flexible tube with a tiny camera attached to the knee. A small incision is needed through which the surgeon can view the knee joint and also perform required repairs of the meniscus tear. 


Meniscus tears can be prevented by doing exercises to strengthen the muscles in the legs. Leg muscles that are strong help protect the knee joint by adding stability. Another way to prevent a torn meniscus is by wearing protective gear or a knee brace during work or sports activities that place your knee at risk of being injured.
When participating in activities that put your knee at risk for meniscus tears and when working out or exercising, use proper form. Always warm-up before you exercise. Lace your shoes properly and make sure you wear the right shoes to fit your sport.

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