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Degenerative Meniscal tear

Menisci are the cartilage disks that are found in our knees. There are two in each knee (one lateral and one medial) which act as shock absorbers and cushions to minimise the stress on the articular cartilage which cover the ends of our bones. If we damage our menisci, this can cause extra stress to our articular cartilage, which could trigger the onset of osteoarthritis. Meniscus tears are not the only cause of osteoarthritis but they are certainly a contributing factor.


There are two different ways which we can injure our menisci. One is an acute injury where a sudden high load or force causes a tear across the meniscus, which might happen with a sports injury. The other is known as a degenerative meniscus injury which is a more gradual onset and tends to occur as we get older. We are looking at a degenerative meniscal injury here but if you feel you have an acute meniscal injury please click on this link.

Symptoms of degenerative meniscal tear can include:

  • Pain, often localized to a specific aspect of the joint. This can often be characterized as sharp and catching, made worse with twisting and turn maneuvers

  • Recurrent joint swelling

  • Stiffness

  • Locking

  • Giving associated with pain

These symptoms can start with very little in the way of provocation. They can be due to incidents leading to a twisting of the knee but it is not uncommon to see onset of symptoms when the force involved is not too great. 

Self help

In treating a degenerative meniscus it is absolutely key that you pay particular attention to lifestyle factors that affect joint health (visit our guide here). It is also key to manage your activity levels appropriately. Degenerative menisci don’t tend to like big surprises so planning activity is important. You should:

  • Maintain a level of regular activity to maintain good joint function

  • Plan increases in activity methodically. For example if you are planning a walking holiday, make sure that you have walked the distances you intend to cover before hand. If not train yourself

If you are currently experiencing a flair of symptoms you should treat your knee using the acute soft tissue advice here. When you have undertaken the acute soft tissue treatment you should try to regain your range of motion, the ability to full straighten and fully bend your knee, while maintaining as much muscle function as possible. These exercises may be of help.







Further Treatment 


Recovery phase – Once you have noticed your knee starting to feel somewhat easier with the early management it is a good idea to start to think about recovery:

  • Regaining full flexibility

  • Regaining full strength

  • Returning to previous levels of activity

If you are struggling to return to your normal activity levels or your knee is not settling, ask your GP about a referral to the MSK service