Ouch! My knee hurts—it pops, locks up, and gives out. Do I have a torn meniscus?

Ouch! My knee hurts—it pops, locks up, and gives out. Do I have a torn meniscus?


Knee pain is a common problem for patients who come to my office. Many factors can cause or contribute to knee pain. One of the more frequent causes is torn cartilage, such as a meniscus tear.

In many cases, a torn meniscus is first noticed after an injury, such as an excessive twisting of the knee after stepping into a hole or falling from height. Knee injuries also commonly occur during sporting activities due to the high forces placed on the knee through impacts with other players, impacts with the ground, and rotational stress from planting the foot and twisting the leg.

A meniscus tear can also develop without a single, apparent injury. For instance, knee cartilage can gradually become damaged to the point of tearing due to repetitive activity or normal wear and tear over time.

What Are the Symptoms of a Torn Meniscus?

Oftentimes, a patient will feel a sharp, stabbing pain when taking a step. Also, the injured knee may “lock up” or feel as if it is about to buckle or give out under the body’s weight. These symptoms usually worsen with squatting or climbing stairs. The knee may also feel unstable when pivoting or rotating, creating a “shifting” sensation within the joint. Some patients find it helpful to wear a knee brace to help secure and support the injured joint.torn meniscus

What Are the Treatment Options for a Torn Meniscus?

In the long run, surgery may be needed to address a meniscus tear in an active and otherwise healthy individual. With modern technology, this injury can often be addressed with arthroscopic techniques during an outpatient procedure.

There are some situations in which it may not be practical to surgically repair a torn meniscus. For instance, surgery may be inappropriate due to the patient’s age. Also, if there is too much arthritis in the joint, surgery on the torn meniscus may not offer the desired benefit. In these cases, other options may be considered, such as:

  • Medications
  • Exercise and physical therapy
  • Ice/heat applications
  • Injections

In some cases, knee replacement surgery may be considered if the joint is completely worn out.

The Importance of an Accurate Diagnosis

In addition to a meniscus tear, several other issues can cause knee pain, including patellofemoral syndromearthritis, an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear, and knee joint inflammation. Therefore, it is important to have your knee pain fully evaluated. With a proper diagnosis, an appropriate course of treatment can be laid out for you to help you get back on your feet again.

To request a consultation about your knee pain, contact my office today.