Can a medial meniscus tear heal on its own?

Can a medial meniscus tear heal on its own?

London Cartilage Clinic

Written By London Cartilage Clinic

A tear in the inner cartilage of the knee, called the medial meniscus, can be very disruptive to the person suffering from the injury. You are likely to experience some form of discomfort and it could be preventing you from completing day-to-day tasks or leisure activities. At this point, it’s necessary that you do some research and consider your options. In this post, we offer medical insights in establishing if a medial meniscus tear can heal on its own. 

Symptoms of a meniscus tear

How do I know if I have a meniscus tear? There are a number of symptoms which are likely to appear in the days and weeks following the event that caused the tear, regardless of if it’s in the medial or lateral meniscus. This includes: 

  • Swelling around the knee accompanied by stiffness. 
  • Difficulty bending or straightening the leg at the knee. 
  • Instability in the knee when standing. 
  • Knee pain. 
  • A clicking or crunching sound when you start to move the knee. 

Sometimes, these symptoms are difficult to detect or may not fully appear for a while. If you suspect you might have sustained a knee meniscus injury, the best way to be sure to speak to a healthcare professional. This will help identify the problem early and allow you to take the necessary steps for healing. 



Types of meniscus tear 

A meniscus can either be obtained (acute tear) or as a result of ongoing wear and tear (degenerative tears). In addition to these categorisations, meniscal tears can be differentiated by the shape and direction of the tear: 

  • Radial tear – a tear in the meniscus that happens in an area that doesn’t get any blood supply. This is known as the avascular zone. 
  • Horizontal tear – a tear that runs in line with the curved fibres of the meniscus along its outer edge. 
  • Flap tear – as the name suggests, the meniscus tears in a pattern that results in a flap of cartilage peeling back. 
  • Complex tear – a tear featuring a combination of different tear patterns, typically radial and horizontal. While these tears present a unique challenge for surgeons, a procedure can be successful for either a full or partial meniscus repair. 
  • Incomplete tear – sometimes called an ‘intrasubstance change’, an incomplete tear is considered a minor injury that doesn’t often require surgical treatment.  

 Can a meniscus tear heal by itself? 

 In short, yes. However, there is no guide for how long this will take, with the time being influenced by the type of tear, patient age, joint wear, and any underlying health conditions. Only minor tears to the medial meniscus can be fixed this way. A healthcare will advise you on the best course of action, along with an estimated recovery time. Physiotherapy is frequently recommended to help strengthen the body and prevent re-injury if you choose this route. 

Blood flow is crucial to facilitating bodily healing. Unfortunately, the inner part of the knee gets a reduced supply of blood compared to the outer portion. This means the medial meniscus typically takes longer to heal naturally than the lateral meniscus. 

When does a meniscus tear need surgery? 

When a medial meniscus tear is severe, an arthroscopy can be necessary to conduct cartilage removal or achieve meniscus repair. In judging whether a tear is bad enough to warrant surgery, you should consider the symptoms above, how the injury is impacting your life, and then speak to a medical professional. They will assess the nature of the tear during an initial consultation to determine which treatment option is best. This is usually done through both physical examination and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). 

During high impact events, additional damage can be sustained to the surrounding tissue in the knee. This can prevent the medial meniscus from healing on its own through a reduction in blood flow to the medial compartment of the knee. However, as we’ve discussed, repairing a tear without knee meniscus surgery can take a long time. 


Experienced knee specialist in London 

The team at London Cartilage Clinic contains individuals from multiple disciplines to ensure our joint cartilage repair and replacement services are of the highest standard. This includes orthopaedics experts, medical engineers, doctors, and skilled surgeons. We’re proud to be spear-heading this is pioneering area of treatment that can restore quality of life. Our specialists provide long-term results to people of all ages. Contact us to speak to a friendly consultant. We’re happy to discuss your situation as it helps us gain an understanding of you as a person and what route forward we need to take. 

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