What is the Medial Meniscus?

Alex Paul

The medial meniscus is a half-circle piece of cartilage in the knee that’s located on the inner side. The purpose of the medial meniscus is to reduce the force between the tibia and femur bones during activities such as walking, running or jumping. The meniscus on the medial side of the knee can be damaged when by twisting. Cartilage tears can usually be solved through conservative treatment although surgical intervention is sometimes necessary.

A diagram of the knee, showing the medial meniscus.
A diagram of the knee, showing the medial meniscus.

There are two different menisci in the knee, and each is classified by respective locations. Aside from the medial meniscus there is also the lateral meniscus that helps reduce the force going through the outer part of the knee. Without these two menisci there would be very little stopping the two bones of the leg hitting together directly. For this reason an injury to either menisci can be difficult to treat and may result in long-term knee pain if it isn’t addressed.

A medial meniscus tear can cause the knee to be very tender to touch.
A medial meniscus tear can cause the knee to be very tender to touch.

Another function of the medial meniscus is to reduce the friction between the bones that come together at the knee joint. When the meniscus is impaired or torn, it can result in extra friction as well as pain. In many cases a cartilage tear will not allow the knee to function correctly.

The medial meniscus is put under a large amount of stress and strain during sports and everyday life. It’s therefore more likely to be injured than the lateral meniscus. There are many symptoms of meniscus tear such as pain on the inner side of the knee, swelling around the knee joint and pain when rotating the knee.

The meniscus can be torn in several different ways. For example, radial tears occur then the meniscus is torn from the edge toward the center. Degenerative tears are when the edges of the meniscus become rough.

Treatment for a tear to knee cartilage is usually conservative to begin with although this depends on the severity of the injury. For example, an athlete may be advised to rest and ice the knee while using a compression bandage. Other conservative treatments include ultrasound and massage to the affected area.

The medial meniscus may also be damaged during an anterior cruciate ligament, known as an ACL, rupture. It’s sometimes difficult for meniscus tear to be diagnosed when it happens along with a more serious injury such as an ACL tear. In the most severe cases meniscus surgery may be required in order to fix the problem. This is usually performed using an arthroscopic surgery.

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