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Can a Meniscus Tear Heal Itself?

The meniscus is a rubber-like, C-shaped disc that cushions the knee. Unfortunately, meniscus tears are common, especially in athletes. So, if you hurt your knee playing sports or from everyday activities, it’s best to come in for a consultation with Dr. Steven E. Nolan in our Sugar Land, Texas, office. His expertise in sports medicine and orthopedic surgery ensures you’ll receive the correct diagnosis and treatment. After an examination and diagnostic testing, he’ll tell you whether your meniscus tear can heal on its own or if surgery is your best option. He also treats ACL injuries.

Symptoms of a meniscus tear

A sudden meniscus tear usually happens during sports when you squat and twist the knee. A degenerative meniscus tear occurs in older people whose cartilage naturally thins and weakens over time. Either way, you may have knee pain, swelling, stiffness, or the feeling that your knee locks or gives out. If you have a severe tear, pieces of torn meniscus tissue may move into the joint space, making it hard for your knee to move.

Can a meniscus injury heal on its own?

Some meniscus injuries need surgery and some don’t. It all depends on the location of the tear, and how bad it is. Your tear can be minor, moderate, or severe. More than likely, a severe tear will need surgery. 

Location is key

If the tear is in the outer third of the meniscus, it may be able to heal on its own because that area has a rich blood supply. Blood cells help repair tissue naturally. If the tear is in the inner two-thirds of the meniscus, surgery may be necessary. 

Age is a factor

If you suffer a degenerative meniscus tear, surgery may not be recommended. This is because it would be like trying to sew frayed fabric back together. Each situation is unique, though. Dr. Nolan will give you an honest assessment and may suggest rest, ice, over-the-counter pain relievers, or physical therapy. If someone in their 20s has a meniscus tear, surgery may be recommended because their tissue is still rubbery and strong.

Stability matters

A partial tear that doesn’t go all the way through the meniscus is considered stable and may not need surgery. A full tear is considered unstable even if there’s a good blood supply. Surgery will be needed to sew it back together.


Dr. Nolan takes your age, overall health, and activity level into account while factoring in the location and severity of the tear. After a thorough assessment, he lets you know if your meniscus tear can heal itself or if you’re a good candidate for surgery.

If you have a knee injury, the sooner you seek treatment, the better. Make an appointment to see Dr. Nolan to get back to your normal routine as soon as possible. Request an appointment online or call us at 281-720-6910 today.

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