The symptoms of a meniscus tear — the meniscus being a bit of cartilage in the knee that provides structural integrity to the joint — can be difficult to recognize, especially if it is not a severe injury. There are, however, some common symptoms to watch for which suggest the meniscus is torn. Swelling of the knee, knee stiffness or pain, and popping or clicking in the knee joint are the most common symptoms of a meniscus tear.
It can be difficult to tell immediately if the meniscus is torn, because it is composed of cartilage and does not have any nerve endings of its own. Sometimes mild pain is felt at the time of the injury, but often swelling and pain are delayed in developing. As a result of slow swelling, mild tears might go unnoticed at their onset, and more severe tears are primarily recognized by swelling and the subsequent stress on other ligaments or tissues. Those whose meniscus is torn may expect swelling in the knee area to develop over the course of a couple days after the initial injury.
Swelling is one of the most common symptoms of a meniscus tear. Generally, it is easy to tell if the knee is swollen because it will look abnormally larger than the uninjured knee, and may feel puffy and tightened. Swelling puts pressure on the uninjured tissues in the knee, and can lead to another of the most common symptoms of a meniscus tear, which is pain.
Since the meniscus itself does not have any nerve endings, the pain associated with a torn meniscus stems from swelling and the stress that swelling puts on the injured knee. The pain associated with a meniscus tear is generally not excessively severe, although it ranges depending on the severity of the injury. Some patients may not notice any swelling, which typically means they will not experience much pain and the injury is mild. People who experience swelling and pain as a result of a torn meniscus usually find that bending, straightening, or twisting the knee can trigger pain.
Popping or clicking in the knee joint is another of the most common symptoms of a meniscus tear. Inhibited movement, which can manifest as a catching feeling or popping while bending or straightening the knee joint, is caused by swelling or pressure that keeps the joint from operating normally. Another possibility is that pieces of the torn cartilage remain trapped in the knee joint and inhibit normal operative movement. Either way, it is not uncommon experience the clicking sensation as a result of bending, straightening, or twisting a knee with a torn meniscus.