Even as one of the most common knee injuries, a torn meniscus is nothing to scoff at. There are many ways a meniscus can be torn, but it's usually caused by quick, rotating movements like those needed to life heavy objects or play sports. It is extremely painful and can be very difficult to recover from. Sometimes, the tear only requires physical therapy and rest. Other times, it requires all this as well as knee surgery. The severity of the injury determines the recovery time. What's a Meniscus Tear? A meniscus tear is a split in the rubbery, C-shaped cushion on the outer edge of the knee. The primary function of the meniscus is to keep the knee stable and balance the weight evenly across it. When damaged, it is not only painful but also very difficult to stay balanced. The meniscus accumulates a fair amount of wear and tear with age, so it is more common as people grow older. However, wear and tear is not the only factor in a tear. It can also caused by a fast, jerking twist or turn. This often happens when one leg is planted and the other leg's knee is bent, which is why meniscus tears are common sports injuries. Previous injuries contribute to a greater chance of tears happening again. Types of Meniscus Tears The time it take for a meniscus to heal depends on the severity of the injury. Meniscus tears are usually divided into three groups, each of which has its own therapy requirements. Minor tears are the least serious. They include slight swelling and pain. It generally goes away on its own after two or three weeks. If you want to reduce the pain and aid the recovery process, you can take anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen, rest it, and ice it on and off every 20 minutes. Moderate tears require more patience and time. They cause pain in the sides or center of the knee and make the joint feel stiff. Swelling is quite obvious and gets worse with time, usually for two or three days after the initial injury. The motion of the knee is greatly limited and painful, especially while moving. The symptoms might go away by themselves but only with rest. If you continue to use it despite the injury, the pain may feel better for a time but return when it is overused. It can go on like this for years if it is left untreated. Treatment for moderate tears is usually up to the doctor's discretion, but can include long periods of rest, physical therapy, or (uncommonly) surgery. You will have to wear a knee brace. Recovery time ranges from two to three months for a full recovery. Severe tears are the worst types. Pieces of the meniscus come off and clog the joint space, causing extreme pain. The knee may feel unstable and you may not be able to move it. If you continue to use it, the knee may give way occasionally It's common to be unable to straighten it completely with a severe tear. It will feel extremely stiff and be very swollen. Severe tears almost always require surgery to remove the torn pieces of cartilage and then lots of rest. Your doctor will probably recommend physical therapy as well. Recovery time for severe tears begin with a minimum of three months and can extend up to as long as you doctor thinks you need. What to Expect During Rehab Rehabilitation can be strenuous, both physically and emotionally. When you are required to stay off of your feet for a few months it is easy to get discouraged. Physical therapy especially can be challenging. It usually requires some movements that will test the strength of the knee, which can be painful and scary to try. They will also usually give you strength training to do at home between therapy sessions, which can be difficult to keep up. Above all, a torn meniscus needs to be taken seriously. The knee is a large component of being able to walk. During recovery, take your time and be cautious. Even if it takes six months to fully recover, invest yourself fully into taking care of it. Yes, it can be scary, but the consequences of permanent damage are far scarier!