Can a Meniscus Tear Heal on Its Own?

Recent studies show that out of every 100,000 Americans, 61 will experience a meniscus tear. The incidence rate is much higher for those working full-time in the military. Other activities can increase the likelihood of sustaining such injury. 

These include activities like frequent squatting, kneeling, and various sports like football, rugby, soccer, and wrestling. You’re likely wondering if a meniscus tear can heal on its own. This article will answer all your questions. Here is a guide to a torn meniscus and what it takes to heal.

What is a Meniscus Tear?

A torn meniscus is a commonly occurring knee injury. 

The human body has a meniscus on every side of the knee – one on the outside (lateral meniscus) and one on the inside (medial meniscus). Their function is to provide cushioning to stabilize and shield the knee joint. Any activity that involves forcefully rotating or twisting the knee, particularly when adding too much pressure on the knee, can result in a meniscus tear.

Causes of a Meniscus Tear

Meniscus tears often happen when a person suddenly twists or turns their thigh while bending the knee and fixing the foot on the ground, often occurring during vigorous activity, like playing sports. Obesity can be another contributing factor. The heavier the load on the knees, the more pressure it puts on the joints. Therefore, bending and rotating the knee becomes a higher-risk movement and may lead to meniscus damage.

Meniscus injury can also occur due to old age. As the body grows older, the knee cartilage starts to weaken. This makes people more prone to meniscus tears, with a 12-14% prevalence rate of meniscal tears. Degenerative meniscus tears are another common problem for the elderly. Overall, meniscal injuries are more common among people who actively engage in sports, high-impact activities or have a high body mass index.

Symptoms of a Meniscus Tear

A meniscus tear can lead to various unwanted symptoms. However, the symptoms can vary based on the area affected and the severity. They can also overlap depending on the severity of the damage. Here is a quick look at the possible signs of a meniscus injury.

Medial Meniscus Tear


  • Pain on the inner side of the knee
  • Swelling in the knee joint
  • Tenderness
  • Inability to fully strengthen the knee
  • Locking sensations
  • Limited range of motion


Lateral Meniscus Tear


  • Pain in the outer side of the knee
  • Stiffness and swelling in the knee
  • Snapping or clicking sensations
  • Feeling unstable
  • Limited range of motion


Radial Meniscus Tear


  • Localized, sharp, and pronounced pain in the knee
  • Swelling near the tear
  • Trouble fully straightening or bending the knee
  • Feeling unstable
  • Locking or catching sensations
  • Limited range of motion


Treatment of a Meniscus Tear

To treat a meniscus injury, the approach depends on how big the tear is, where it is located, and how severe it is. Healthcare providers will also consider how physically active the patient is and their overall health. Here are the common treatments for each type of meniscus tear.

Medial Meniscus Tear

For a minor tear with minimal symptoms, at-home treatments can often suffice. That includes ice compression, rest, and elevation. People can wear a knee brace for a meniscus tear to help with healing. Also note that if the injury is too painful, patients can take NSAIDs for pain management.

If the tear affects knee strength, causes ongoing discomfort, reduced range of motion, and poor stability, then physical therapy can help. As a last resort, if at-home treatment doesn’t work and other treatments have been exhausted, arthroscopic surgery may be necessary.

Lateral Meniscus Tear

Treatment usually involves elevation, compression, ice, and rest. For reducing pain, NSAIDs can be an effective short-term solution during the treatment process. Therapeutic exercises and a knee brace can speed up the natural healing process. If the lateral meniscus tear can’t repair itself, surgery may be the last resort.

Radial Meniscus Tear

Radial meniscus tears have a lower probability of fully healing due to their specific shape and overall blood supply. It’s better to seek medical attention for radial meniscus tears rather than try to treat them on your own due to their complexity. Although proper treatment can make a big difference in recovery, surgical intervention might be a preferred alternative for moderate to large tears.

Can a Meniscus Tear Heal on Its Own?

To answer the question, “Can a medial meniscus tear heal on its own?” many tears heal on their own, and many don’t. It depends on where they are and the extent of the damage. The outer portion of the meniscus, known as the “red zone,” has a better blood supply and therefore has a higher chance of healing on its own. Minor tears in this area may potentially heal on their own with conservative treatment. 

Recovery time for meniscus tears can take anywhere from 4 to 8 weeks. In the meantime, patients should get a good amount of rest and refrain from doing sports that would pressure the torn meniscus. Note that more significant or moderate tears in the inner portion of the meniscus, called the “white zone,” are less likely to heal independently. This area has limited circulation, which hinders the natural reparation process.

Surgical treatment, like knee arthroscopic surgery, can be necessary for meniscus tears that don’t heal on their own. The surgeon can fix the tear by stitching it together or remove the damaged segment through a partial meniscectomy.

How to Prevent a Meniscus Tear

Now that you know more about the healing process of meniscus tears, it’s important to also know how to prevent them. The following strategies are best to follow:


  • Gradually increase workout intensity
  • Wear shoes with adequate support and shock-absorption
  • Put a knee brace on when working out or if the knee feels weak
  • Focus on your posture and keep the knee stable
  • Keep a healthy body weight

Keep Your Knee Health a Priority

A meniscus tear can heal itself if it is small and situated on the outer area of the meniscus. But, if the tear is in the inner region, the odds of healing on its own are lower. Don’t leave your meniscus tear untreated, and consult a doctor or healthcare practitioner if you are experiencing knee pain or are unsure about the severity of your injury.

Take proactive steps towards a healthy recovery and consider adding a knee brace to your treatment plan. Check out our Ascender unloader knee brace, with up to 40 lbs of unloading power. It provides compression, stability and helps with pain relief. Your healing journey starts with the proper support.

Get Started Today

Most braces are covered by insurance and the average cost is under $200!

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