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Meniscus tear is a common injury that affects the knee joint. The meniscus are 'C' shaped discs, made of tough cartilage called fibrocartilage. They are positioned on the tibial plateau (top surface of the shin bone) between the tibia (shin bone) and the femur (thigh bone) and are important for distributing load and absorbing shock at the knee joint. There are two menisci within each knee joint.
Pain is usually experienced when a meniscus is injured, particularly when trying to straighten, bend or twist the knee. If the tear is tiny, the meniscus stays connected to the front and back of the knee. If the tear is large however, the meniscus may be left only slightly intact. Severe, intermittent sharp pain may occur, and is localised to that side of the joint. This results from part of the tear catching between the articular surfaces of the tibia and femur, blocking full extension of the knee, causing a 'locking' sensation.
Swelling may occur soon after the injury or several hours later as a result of inflammation. Complaints of clicking, popping or locking of the knee may also follow a meniscus injury. In some cases, after the initial swelling and pain, the joint settles down and normal activities can be resumed. This may be because the tear in the meniscus is small or the flap does not affect joint mechanics.