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Knee Tearing Sensation Symptoms, Causes & Common Questions

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Last updated May 4, 2022

Knee tearing sensation quiz

Take a quiz to find out what's causing your knee tearing sensation.

Understand your knee tearing sensation symptoms, including 5 causes and common questions.

4 most common causes

Dislocated Kneecap
Knee Meniscal Tears
Illustration of a doctor beside a bedridden patient.
ACL injury
Illustration of a doctor beside a bedridden patient.
Knee sprain (LCL)

5 causes of possible knee tearing sensation

This list does not constitute medical advice and may not accurately represent what you have.

Meniscal injury

The menisci are the two pieces of cartilage serving as shock absorbers in the knee, between the lower end of the thighbone and the top of the shinbone. A torn meniscus is commonly referred to as "torn cartilage" in the knee.

Damage to a meniscus often happens along with another injury to the knee, especially when there is any forceful, twisting movement or a direct hit such as a tackle.

Older people may tear a meniscus through normal activity if the cartilage has become thin and worn due to aging.

Symptoms include pain, stiffness, and swelling. The knee will simply not work correctly and may catch, lock up, or give way.

Diagnosis is made through patient history, physical examination, simple motion tests, and imaging such as x-ray or MRI.

Depending on the exact form of the injury, the tear may be allowed to heal on its own with supportive care such as rest, ice, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory pain medication. In other cases, arthroscopic surgery followed by rehabilitation may be needed.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: pain in one knee, knee stiffness, knee instability, pain in the inside of the knee, swollen knee

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Knee sprain (LCL)

The LCL is the ligament on the outside of the knee, keeping it from bending away from the body. It is most commonly injured while playing sports (ouch!) when a force is placed on the knee from the inner half of the knee.

Depending on the severity of your knee pain, you should go see your doctor or go to an urgent care clinic as soon as possible. Your doctor may prescribe you crutches, a brace, pain medication, or physical therapy. You may be asked to refrain from physical activity.

Rarity: Rare

Top Symptoms: pain in one knee, knee pain from an injury, knee injury, pain in the outside of the knee, sports injury

Symptoms that always occur with knee sprain (lcl): pain in one knee, knee pain from an injury

Symptoms that never occur with knee sprain (lcl): mild knee pain

Urgency: Hospital emergency room

Dislocated kneecap

The kneecap connects the muscles in the front of the thigh to the shinbone (tibia). When the slips out of the groove, problems and pain often result.

You should visit your primary care physician within the next 24 hours. The first step is to return the kneecap to its proper place, a process called reduction.

Acl injury

The ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) is an important tendon that connects the femur (thigh bone) to the tibia (shin), stabilizing the knee. ACL injuries are commonly caused by sports-related injuries.

Your primary care provider or an urgent care provider can do an exam, and imaging can determine the extent of the injury. Treatment depends on the severity of the injury, ranging from rehabilitation to full surgery.

Rarity: Rare

Top Symptoms: knee pain, pain in one knee, knee instability, swollen knee, knee pain from an injury

Symptoms that always occur with acl injury: knee pain

Symptoms that never occur with acl injury: mild knee pain

Urgency: Hospital emergency room

Knee (mcl) sprain

The medical collateral ligament (MCL) links the thigh bone and the shin bone on the inner side of the knee joint. An MCL sprain is any damage done to this ligament (usually through twisting/force during sports).

Rarity: Uncommon

Top Symptoms: pain in one knee, knee pain from an injury, knee injury, pain in the inside of the knee, sports injury

Symptoms that always occur with knee (mcl) sprain: pain in one knee, knee pain from an injury

Symptoms that never occur with knee (mcl) sprain: mild knee pain

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Questions your doctor may ask about knee tearing sensation

To diagnose this condition, your doctor would likely ask the following questions:

  • Did you recently injure your knee?
  • Did you just suffer from a high impact injury (e.g., a fall, collision, accident or sports trauma)?
  • How did you hurt your knee?
  • Where is your knee pain?

Self-diagnose with our free Buoy Assistant if you answer yes on any of these questions.

Knee tearing sensation symptom checker statistics

People who have experienced knee tearing sensation have also experienced:

  • 20% Knee Pain
  • 8% Moderate Knee Pain
  • 7% Swollen Knee

People who have experienced knee tearing sensation were most often matched with:

  • 40% Knee Sprain (Lcl)
  • 33% Dislocated Kneecap
  • 26% Knee (Mcl) Sprain

Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from Buoy Assistant.

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