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Knee Meniscal Tears Treatment Overview

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Care Plan


First steps to consider

  • Most knee meniscal tears can be treated at home.
  • OTC pain relievers, lifestyle changes, and at-home strategies can reduce pain and swelling.
See home treatments

When you may need a provider

  • Your symptoms don’t get better within 3–6 weeks of home care.
  • The pain is severe, or you can’t put weight on the leg or move the knee without pain.
See care providers

Emergency Care

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Go to the ER if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • Your leg feels warm, tender, and painful.
  • Your leg is locked in a bent position and you can’t straighten it.

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All treatments for knee meniscal tears
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Read more about knee meniscal tears care options

When to see a healthcare provider

See a healthcare provider if your symptoms don’t improve within 3–6 weeks of home treatment. The main symptoms of a knee meniscal tear are a catching or popping sensation in the knee, a feeling that the knee is locked in place when you try to move it, buckling of the leg, and sharp pain (especially when you twist the knee).

You should also see a provider if the pain is severe, the knee is locked, you can’t put weight on the leg, or move the knee without pain.

Getting diagnosed

Your provider will diagnose a knee meniscal tear with a physical exam. You may be asked to walk, squat, or move your leg and knee in different positions. In some cases, you may need an MRI to confirm the diagnosis. Your provider may also order X-rays to rule out other knee problems that cause similar symptoms.

What to expect from your doctor visit

  • If OTC NSAIDs haven’t relieved pain, your provider may prescribe a different NSAID, like celecoxib (Celebrex) or diclofenac (Voltaren).
  • Physical therapy can help stretch and strengthen the leg muscles supporting the knee.
  • For severe pain or pain that hasn’t gotten better over time, your provider may offer corticosteroid (“cortisone”) injections. The injections also reduce inflammation and swelling inside the joint.
  • Surgery for meniscal tears may be recommended for locked tears, tears that don’t respond to at least 6 weeks of nonsurgical treatment, and large tears from an injury in young patients. Your surgeon will either fix the tear or remove the damaged meniscus entirely.

Prescription meniscal tears medications

  • NSAIDs: celecoxib (Celebrex), diclofenac (Voltaren)

Types of providers who treat meniscus tears

  • A primary care provider can treat mild to moderate symptoms.
  • You may be referred to a bone specialist (orthopedic surgeon) if symptoms are severe or surgery is necessary.
  • A physical therapist can work with you to stretch and strengthen muscles that support the knee and help you return to doing your normal activities.
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