Meniscus Tears

Meniscus tears are common knee injuries that affect people of all ages. The meniscus is a C-shaped piece of cartilage in the knee that acts as a cushion between the thigh bone and shinbone. This cartilage helps keep your knee stable and absorbs shock as you walk, run, or jump. When the meniscus is torn, it can be painful and swollen, and it can be hard to move the knee.

Experiencing knee pain or suspecting a meniscus tear? Consult our meniscus tear specialist for an accurate diagnosis & personalised treatment plan.

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Dr Dennis Ng Zhaowen
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Causes of Meniscus Tears

Meniscus tears can occur for various reasons and often have to do with sudden injuries or changes that happen over time in the knee joint. The primary causes of meniscus tears include:

Acute Injury

Acute injuries are sudden, forceful events that lead to meniscus tears. These injuries include:

  • Sports Injuries: Sports that require forceful stops, pivots, changes in direction, and twisting movements, such as basketball, soccer, and tennis, can cause the meniscus to tear. Athletes are often at higher risk due to the intense physical demands and quick movements required in these sports.
  • Traumatic Injuries: A direct impact to the knee, often from contact sports, accidents like falls or collisions, can lead to a meniscus tear. Such traumatic injuries usually involve a powerful force that impacts the knee joint.
Degenerative Changes

These changes weaken the meniscus, making it more prone to tears from minor stresses and injuries.

  • Ageing: The meniscus weakens and becomes more prone to tearing as people age. This happens because the cartilage gets thinner over time and loses its ability to stretch and bounce back. People over the age of 40 are more likely to have degenerative tears.
  • Osteoarthritis: Conditions like osteoarthritis, where the cartilage and bone in the joints break down over time, can lead to meniscus tears. The weakened cartilage is more likely to be damaged from normal activities and minor injuries.
Risk Factors

Certain risk factors, such as lifestyle, occupational activities, or previous medical history, can increase the likelihood of experiencing a meniscus tear.

  • Occupations and Activities: Jobs or activities that require kneeling, squatting, or lifting large objects can cause meniscus tears. Jobs such as construction, carpentry, plumbing, and activities like gardening and cleaning can lead to meniscus deterioration over time. Repetitive knee strain might weaken the meniscus.
  • Previous Knee Injuries: People with previous knee injuries, such as ligament tears, are at higher risk of developing meniscus tears. The knee joint may be less stable, making the meniscus more vulnerable to damage.

Symptoms of Meniscus Tears

The symptoms of a torn meniscus depend on the severity and location of the tear.

  • Knee Pain
    Pain can be sharp and intense immediately after the injury or gradually dull in degenerative tears. The pain is usually in the knee joint and worsens when you move, especially when you twist or rotate your knee.
  • Swelling and Tenderness
    Swelling around the knee joint and feeling of tenderness typically occur within the first 24 hours after the injury. The swelling may cause the knee to feel tight and puffy.
  • Locking Sensation
    A torn meniscus can cause the knee to lock or catch during movement. This sensation occurs when a piece of torn cartilage gets in the way of the knee joint’s usual movement and causes it to get stuck in one position temporarily.
  • Stiffness
    People with a meniscus tear often experience stiffness in the knee, making it difficult to bend or straighten the leg fully. This stiffness can limit movement and interfere with daily activities.
  • Clicking or Popping Sounds
    Some people may hear a clicking or “popping” sound at the time of injury or during knee movement. This sound is often due to the torn edges of the meniscus rubbing against the knee joint structures.
  • Unstable Knees
    The knee may feel unstable or give way, especially during activities involving weight-bearing or sudden direction changes. This instability can increase the risk of further injury.

Diagnosis of Meniscus Tears

Diagnosing a meniscus tear involves a combination of medical history, physical examination, and imaging tests.

Medical History

The diagnosis process begins with a thorough medical history. The knee specialist will inquire about the onset of symptoms, recent injuries, and activities that may have caused knee pain. Understanding the patient’s medical background, including any previous knee problems, helps evaluate the possibility of a meniscus tear.

Physical Examination

During the physical examination, the knee specialist will perform various tests to evaluate the knee’s range of motion, stability, and areas of tenderness. Common tests include:

  • McMurray Test: The McMurray test involves bending, straightening, and rotating the knee. If there is a clicking sound or pain during this manoeuvre, it may indicate a meniscus tear.
  • Apley Grind Test: In this test, the patient lies face down, and the knee specialist bends the knee to 90 degrees, then applies downward pressure on the foot while rotating it. Pain or discomfort during this test may suggest a meniscus tear.
  • Joint Line Tenderness: Pressing along the joint line of the knee may reveal tenderness, which is often associated with meniscus tears. This tenderness is usually localised to the side of the knee where the tear is present.
MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging)

MRI provides detailed images of the soft tissues in the knee, including the meniscus, ligaments, and cartilage. It can also reveal the location and extent of the tear.

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Treatment Options

Treatment for meniscus tears depends on the tear’s type, size, location, and the patient’s age, activity level, and overall health. Both non-surgical and surgical options are available.

Non-Surgical Treatments

Non-surgical treatments are generally the first option for minor tears or for people who do not want to undergo surgery. The goal is to reduce pain and swelling, improve knee function, and prevent further injury.

Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation (RICE)

The RICE method is a common initial treatment for meniscus tears:

  • Rest: Avoid activities that cause pain or strain on the knee.
  • Ice: Apply ice packs to the knee for 20 minutes at a time, several times daily, to reduce swelling.
  • Compression: Use an elastic bandage or knee brace to provide support and reduce swelling.
  • Elevation: Keep the knee elevated above heart level to decrease swelling.
Medications

Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, can help manage pain and reduce inflammation. Sometimes, the knee specialist prescribes stronger medications for more severe pain.

Injections

Injections can be used to reduce inflammation and pain in the knee. Common types of injections include:

  • Corticosteroid Injections: These injections help reduce inflammation and provide pain relief. They are often used when other non-surgical treatments are ineffective.
  • Hyaluronic Acid Injections: These injections supplement the natural lubricant in the knee joint, improving mobility and reducing pain. They are more commonly used in patients with degenerative meniscus tears.
Surgical Treatments

Severe, non-healing, or tears with considerable symptoms may require surgery. The location and severity of the tear determine the need for surgery.

Meniscectomy

A meniscectomy involves removing the damaged part of the meniscus. Depending on the extent of the tear, this procedure can be partial or complete. It is often performed arthroscopically, which involves small incisions and a faster recovery time.

Meniscus Repair

The meniscus can be repaired rather than removed. This involves stitching the torn edges together. Meniscus repair is typically done arthroscopically and is preferred for tears that occur in the outer edge of the meniscus, where a good blood supply can facilitate healing.

Meniscus Transplant

For patients with substantial meniscus damage, a meniscus transplant may be an option. This procedure involves replacing the damaged meniscus with donor tissue. It is a less common procedure and is usually considered for younger patients without arthritis.

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Prevention of Meniscus Tears

Various techniques can lower the risk of meniscus tears. These preventive approaches emphasise knee strength, flexibility, and good exercise techniques.

Strengthening and Flexibility Exercises

Regular exercise to strengthen the muscles around the knee and improve flexibility can reduce the risk of meniscus tears. Key exercises include:

  • Strengthening Exercises: Focus on building the quadriceps, hamstrings, and calf muscles. Exercises such as squats or leg presses help support and stabilise the knee joint.
  • Flexibility Exercises: Improve the flexibility of the knee-supporting muscles with stretches like hamstring, quadriceps, and calf stretches. These stretches make it easier to move and lower the risk of tears.
Proper Techniques

Using the correct techniques during sports and physical activities can help prevent meniscus tears:

  • Warm-Up: Always start with a proper warm-up before engaging in any physical activity. This prepares the muscles and joints for exercise.
  • Avoid Sudden Movements: Be mindful of sudden twisting, turning, or stopping movements, which can stress the meniscus. Practise controlled and gradual movements during activities.
  • Use Appropriate Footwear: Wearing shoes that provide adequate support and cushioning can help absorb shock and reduce the strain on the knee joints.
Weight Management

Maintaining a healthy weight can reduce the stress on the knee joints. Excess weight increases the risk of knee injuries, including meniscus tears. Consuming a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains can help maintain a healthy weight. Engaging in regular physical activity also helps to control weight and strengthen muscles around the knee, providing better support.

Avoid Overuse

Repetitive strain on the knee joint can lead to wear and tear of the meniscus. It is important to avoid overuse by varying activities and allowing for rest and recovery time. Alternate between high-impact activities, like running, and low-impact activities, such as swimming or cycling, to give your knees a break. Include rest days in your workouts to protect your knees from overuse.

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Learn what our patients have to say about our treatments and services.

Jeremy Teo
Jeremy Teo
2024-05-16
I tore my left pec muscle after a bench press accident and had the fortune of getting help from Dr Dennis. He is a very caring and helpful individual that you can tell wants the best healing progress for you and actively follows up with you sincerely. I initially had a two month delay and misdiagnosis at Ktph and it caused my tendon to retract. Should have went to Dr Dennis from the start.. 5/5
Emily Loo
Emily Loo
2024-05-16
I felt that doctor Dennis is very experienced and he skilfully aligned my fractured toe after my accident so that I didn’t need to do a minor surgery. He was friendly and professional and I felt his fees were reasonable without additional overselling of tests, supplements etc. that I have experienced elsewhere. Overall it was a smooth and effective experience and I would highly recommend doctor Dennis.
Ming W
Ming W
2024-04-20
Wonderful experience with Dr. Dennis and his team. The staff were attentive and efficient. Dr. Dennis is professional, caring and knowledgeable. I had a shoulder injury and knee injury that required surgery. The whole journey, including pre and post surgery, Dr. Dennis and his team made sure I received the best treatment possible. Really thankful for the team and I definitely will recommend this place to others.
Jermy Tan
Jermy Tan
2024-04-02
Saw Dr Dennis for my lumbar slipped disc. Great doctor and he explained clearly the different options available. Went with surgery and have been recovering well since then.
Amanda Seah
Amanda Seah
2024-03-02
I came in with a shoulder injury that meds from a GP did not relieve one month ago. Dr Dennis and his team were great in diagnosing the exact injury with an mri, and he prescribed physio. My shoulder condition has greatly improved and I can now move my arm almost completely! Thank you Dr Dennis!
Jaslyn HENG (Kenrick)
Jaslyn HENG (Kenrick)
2024-02-19
A very friendly and nice doctor who manage to cure my elbow issue whjch has been bothering me for more than 6 months! Thank you Doctor Dennis!
Xianmin Jiang
Xianmin Jiang
2024-02-07
I had severe left shoulder pain due to exercise. After MRI checking , it was shown high-grade tendon tearing. Dr Dennis did the surgery for my left should calf repair. After surgery, I strictly follow what he suggested. The recovery was really amazing and fast. I was curious about what happened to my shoulder, he explained in details and with great patience. Now, I am fully recovered in a very fast speed and come back to my loved sports and exercises. I definitely recommend Dr Dennis for his profession, patience and delicate skills. Last not the least, thank for his medical team. The nurses are always prompt to reply when I need help and message them.
Omar Lechuga
Omar Lechuga
2023-12-27
Dr. Dennis helped me with an elbow pinch coming from a trauma. His attention to detail confidence and great empathy really helped me to fully recover. Thank you Dr. Dennis.
Benjamin Mah
Benjamin Mah
2023-12-09
Dr Dennis has been helpful in the diagnosis and explanation of my injury

Dr Dennis Ng Zhaowen
Mount Elizabeth Novena Specialist Centre
38 Irrawaddy Road #08-41,Singapore 329563

Dr Dennis Ng Zhaowen

  • Senior Consultant Orthopaedic Specialist
MBBS (Singapore)
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MRCSEd
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MMED
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FRCSEdOrth (Gold Medal Award)

Before private practice, Dr Dennis Ng was the former Deputy Head of the Shoulder & Elbow Division and Sports Knee Division in National University Hospital.

He completed his fellowship at the prestigious Fowler Kennedy Sports Medicine Centre in London, Ontario, Canada, and has rich experience treating professional athletes and returning them to sports. 

Special areas of interests include keyhole and reconstructive procedures of the knee and ankle. 

Common procedures include ACL Reconstruction, Meniscus repair, Cartilage resurfacing, Knee preservation etc.

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    Mount Elizabeth Novena Specialist Centre

    38 Irrawaddy Road #08-41
    Singapore 329563

    Monday – Friday: 9am – 1pm; 2pm – 5pm
    Saturday: 9am – 1pm
    Sunday & PH: CLOSED

    Other Clinic Location

    Gleneagles Medical Center

    6 Napier Road #07-15
    Singapore 258499

    Monday – Friday: 9am – 1pm; 2pm – 5pm
    Saturday: 9am – 1pm
    Sunday & PH: CLOSED

    Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

    Can meniscus tears heal on their own?

    Minor tears, especially those located on the outer edge of the meniscus with a good blood supply, may heal on their own with appropriate rest and rehabilitation. However, more severe tears often require medical intervention.

    How long is the recovery period for a meniscus tear?

    Recovery time varies depending on the type of treatment and the severity of the tear. Non-surgical treatments may require a few weeks to a few months, while surgical recovery can take several months. Physical therapy is an important part of the process.

    Is surgery always required for a meniscus tear?

    No, surgery is not always required. Many meniscus tears can be managed with non-surgical treatments. Surgery is typically considered for severe tears, tears that do not heal with conservative treatments, or tears causing considerable symptoms.

    What should I do if I suspect I have a meniscus tear?

    If you suspect a meniscus tear, it is important to seek medical attention promptly. A knee specialist can perform a thorough evaluation, recommend appropriate imaging tests, and develop a treatment plan tailored to your needs.

    +65 9751 1486