The meniscus is the cartilage in your knee. It is a tough, rubbery connective tissue that protects the surface of the joints. The medial meniscus is on the inside of the knee, and the lateral meniscus is on the outside. Each one is attached to the top of the shinbone and also attaches to the thighbone. The meniscus acts like a shock absorber between the body and the lower leg. When it is torn, motion is restricted and the knee becomes painful.
When the meniscus suffers a tear, the individual will immediately notice pain. There is a possibility you will also notice swelling, stiffness and locking of the joint. The pain can be reduced with a pain reliever such as acetaminophen. Try ibuprofen or another type of anti-inflammatory pain reliever.
A torn meniscus results in an effusion, or swelling in the joint accompanied by fluid. The swelling may be only on one side of the knee. Generally, the swollen area will feel spongy; however, extreme swelling may cause the area to become harder.
You will experience restricted movement in the leg if the meniscus is torn. It will be very difficult, if not impossible, to completely straighten the leg. It is equally difficult to bend it. You will also have a problem with the knee getting stuck or locking.
A fairly good sign that you have suffered a torn meniscus is a popping sound at the time of the injury. Additionally, the affected knee may pop when you move it; however, if movement is severely restricted, the additional popping may not occur.
Along with taking pain relievers, wrapping and elevating the leg, use a knee brace or an immobilizer to keep the injury from getting worse. Using crutches will help to keep all the weight off the affected joint. Sometimes surgery is needed to remove torn cartilage. It is a short outpatient procedure which typically takes about an hour. If surgery is necessary, your doctor will advise you on when you can resume regular activity.