Treatment

Initial treatment

Treatment for a torn meniscus often begins conservatively, depending on the type, size and location of your tear.

Tears associated with arthritis usually improve over time with treatment of the arthritis, so surgery usually isn't indicated. Many other tears that aren't associated with locking or a block to knee motion will become less painful over time, so they also don't require surgery.

Your doctor might recommend:

  • Rest. Avoid activities that aggravate your knee pain, especially any activity that causes you to twist, rotate or pivot your knee. If your pain is severe, using crutches can take pressure off your knee and promote healing.
  • Ice. Ice can reduce knee pain and swelling. Use a cold pack, a bag of frozen vegetables or a towel filled with ice cubes for about 15 minutes at a time, keeping your knee elevated. Do this every four to six hours the first day or two, and then as often as needed.
  • Medication. Over-the-counter pain relievers also can help ease knee pain.

Therapy

Physical therapy can help you strengthen the muscles around your knee and in your legs to help stabilize and support the knee joint.

Surgery

If your knee remains painful despite rehabilitative therapy or if your knee locks, your doctor might recommend surgery. It's sometimes possible to repair a torn meniscus, especially in children and young adults.

If the tear can't be repaired, the meniscus might be surgically trimmed, possibly through tiny incisions using an arthroscope. After surgery, you will need to do exercises to optimize knee strength and stability.