When we refer to a "torn cartilage" in the knee, we actually mean an injury to a meniscus at the top of your tibia. A tear of a meniscus is a rupture of one or more of the fibrocartilage strips in the knee called menisci. Meniscus tears can occur as a result of a traumatic force encountered during sports or physical exertion – most often when the knee is twisted while bent. It can be also occur during daily activities such as walking or performing leisure activities.
As we age, the meniscus can be damaged following prolonged "wear and tear" — called a degenerative tear.
Tears can lead to pain and/or swelling of the knee joint. Acute injuries can lead to displaced cartilage which can cause mechanical symptoms such as clicking, catching, or locking during motion of the knee joint. The joint will be painful when in use, but when there is no load, the pain typically goes away. A tear of the medial meniscus can occur as part of the unhappy triad, together with a tear of the anterior cruciate ligament and medial collateral ligament.
What therapy can do for you
Once a meniscal cartilage has torn it will not heal on its own since joint cartilages and meniscus cartilage have no blood supply in them. Surgical removal of torn pieces from the knee is indicated if the knee is symptomatic with pain, locking, popping, or giving way. Your physical therapist will work with you pre and post operatively to decrease swelling and improve flexibility and strength.
A program utilizing manual therapy techniques and therapeutic exercises will help you achieve your rehabilitation goals and return you to your daily leisure and sports activities. Building strength of muscles that surround the knee joint and returning range of motion to normal will help prevent future degeneration in your knee.