Meniscus: Definition and What it is
Medically and clinically reviewed by Jonathan Lee, MD and Dylan Peterson, PT, DPT
Meniscus Definition and Meaning
The meniscus is a rubbery, C-shaped disc of cartilage that helps to cushion your knee joint. There are two menisci in each knee. Like all cartilage, the meniscus is a strong, flexible connective tissue that protects your bones and joints and acts as a shock absorber. In this case, the meniscus helps distribute load where the thigh bone (femur) and the shinbone (tibia) meet.
What Is a Meniscus Tear?
A meniscus tear is one of the most common knee injuries, resulting in potential symptoms such as pain, swelling, stiffness, a catching or locking sensation in the knee, and difficulty straightening the knee fully. Tears can range from minor to severe. They are categorized based on their shape and location in the cartilage. They can happen while playing sports or just in the course of daily living. They can occur at any age, but especially as you get older. Meniscus tears are often associated with arthritis, and in such cases should not be thought of as an isolated problem.
Torn Meniscus: A Hinge Health Perspective
Anytime you hear that you’ve torn something in your body, it’s perfectly natural to assume that resting the affected area is the right way to help it heal, prevent further injury, or minimize pain. And while that’s an understandable assumption, it’s often not, in fact, the best way forward.
Maintaining movement, even if modified, can actually help you achieve the results you want by helping to speed healing, prevent further injury, and ease pain. This is especially true for a torn meniscus, because you want to keep the knee joint active and flexible.
Another reason to keep moving: Your knee — and the muscles that support it — need to be strengthened to help you recover safely and prevent re-injury in the future.
How Physical Therapy Can Help With a Torn Meniscus
Many people may feel hesitant to move after being told they have a torn meniscus. Working with a physical therapist (PT) can help you strengthen the knee (and the muscles that surround it) as well as maintain and improve the knee’s range of motion. You can see a physical therapist in person or use a program like Hinge Health to access a PT via telehealth/video visit.
How Hinge Health Can Help You
If you have joint or muscle pain that makes it hard to move, you can get the relief you’ve been looking for with Hinge Health’s online exercise therapy program.
The best part: You don’t have to leave your home because our program is digital. That means you can easily get the care you need through our app, when and where it works for you.
Through our program, you’ll have access to therapeutic exercises and stretches for your condition.
Additionally, you’ll have a personal care team to guide, support, and tailor our program to you. See if you qualify for Hinge Health and confirm free coverage through your employer or benefit plan here.
This article and its contents are provided for educational and informational purposes only and do not constitute medical advice or professional services specific to you or your medical condition.
Bhan, K. (2020). Meniscal tears: Current understanding, diagnosis, and management. Cureus, 12(6). doi:10.7759/cureus.8590
Alaia, M.J., Wilkerson, R. March 2021. Meniscus Tears. OrthoInfo. https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases--conditions/meniscus-tears
Cardone, D.A., Jacobs, B.C. March 13, 2023. Meniscal injury of the knee. UpToDate. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/meniscal-injury-of-the-knee