Meniscal Tear

Editor: Dr. Amy Spencer, PT, DPT, OCS, MTC, CSCS, CKTP - A Board Certified Clinical Specialist in Orthopedic Physical Therapy and Certified Manual Therapist. Owner and Physical Therapist, Specialized Physical Therapy in North Reading, MA.

The menisci are two cartilage shock absorbers that sit between the thigh bone (femur) and the shin bone (tibia). They are tough and rubbery, which helps to Specialized Physical Therapy Meniscal Tear cushion the joint and maintain its stability. The innermost meniscus is called the medial meniscus and the outer one is the lateral meniscus.
The meniscus is nourished by small blood vessels, but the meniscus also has a large area in the center that has no direct blood supply (avascular). This presents a problem if there is an injury to the meniscus, since the avascular areas have a difficult time healing. Without the essential nutrients supplied by blood vessels, healing will not take place. Knowing where the tear is located can help determine how easily an injury might heal (with or without surgery). The better the blood supply, the better the potential for recovery.

Causes of a Meniscal Tear:

The most common mechanism of a traumatic meniscus tear occurs when the knee joint is bent and the knee is suddenly twisted while the foot is still planted firmly on the ground. Meniscus tear injuries often occur during athletic activities especially in contact sports like football and hockey. Activities that require pivoting and sudden stops such as tennis, basketball, and golf can also cause meniscus damage.
As we get older the meniscus weakens and injuries can easily happen from simple movements such as squatting or stepping on an uneven surface. Meniscal tears can also occur from degenerative conditions such as osteoarthritis, rather than a specific injury.

Symptoms of a Meniscal Tear:

There is usually a pop at the time of the injury, followed by knee pain, swelling, clicking, and a decreased range of motion. Your knee may also suddenly give out or you may experience locking of the knee. Locking occurs when a piece of torn meniscus folds on itself and blocks full range of motion of the knee joint.

Treatment of a Meniscal Tear:

The physical therapy treatment of meniscal tears depends on the type of tear, its size, and location. Along with the type of tear, your age, activity level, and any related injuries will also need to be factor into the treatment plan. If the tear is small and on the outer edge of the meniscus, it may not require surgical repair. As long as the symptoms do not persist and the knee is stable, nonsurgical treatment may be all that you need. Your doctor may suggest arthroscopic surgery, if symptoms persist with nonsurgical treatment.

Physical therapy management at Specialized Physical Therapy is specifically designed to individual patient symptoms. Gait training with an assistive device (cane, crutch) may be necessary to temporarily reduce the amount of loading on the affected knee. Manual Therapy, such as joint mobilization and massage are performed to help improve joint mobility and free any muscle or joint restrictions. Modalities such as ice, ultrasound, and electrical stimulation may also be used as they increase blood flow, improve tissue flexibility, decrease pain, and reduce muscle spasms. Customized stretching with strengthening exercises will help in restoring range of motion, muscle performance, and motor function. The goal of physical is to restore function, so you can enjoy pain-free recreational, occupational, and home activities.

SPT is just minutes from Andover, Reading, North Andover, and Wilmington MA

Specialized Physical Therapy is conveniently located in North Reading and also proudly serves residents in Andover, Reading, North Andover, Wilmington, Boxford, Burlington, Woburn, Stoneham, and Methuen.  We offer free and spacious parking located within a few steps away from our clinic’s door.


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Specialized Physical Therapy practices a comprehensive approach to total muscle, joint, and spine health. We are the preferred physical therapy clinic in Greater Boston, because we offer an extensive range of physical therapy services designed to restore your physical strength and mobility while reducing your pain. Our physical therapy clinic sets itself apart by:

  • Providing proven techniques for alleviating minor, major, acute, and chronic pain.
  • Specializing in sports medicine, manual therapy, post-surgical care, auto accidents, prenatal and postpartum conditions, orthopedic injuries and overuse injuries.
  • Maintaining a clean, comfortable, private and quiet clinic, making it ideal for private consulting, educating and performing the latest physical therapy techniques.
  • Focusing on your individual needs, not the bottom line, because we are a small, physical therapist-owned and family-oriented clinic.
  • Treating one patient at a time in our private treatment room to make sure that you get the personalized care and attention you need.
  • Completing your treatment from start to finish with only exceptional doctorate trained and fully licensed Massachusetts physical therapists that have excellent skills, breadth of knowledge, and invaluable experience to help you reach your goals and succeed.


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