Conservative care for torn cartilage in the knee involves resting the joint, applying ice, elevating the injury, using compression and physical therapy, according to the Mayo Clinic. Surgical care options include repairing the cartilage, trimming the meniscus to remove the damaged area or removing the entire torn meniscus. According to WebMD, most surgeons avoid a total meniscectomy if possible, due to the increased risk of osteoarthritis.
According to the Mayo Clinic, physical therapy is useful in strengthening the muscles that support the knee. The additional strength provides support and stabilizes the joint. The physical therapist sometimes recommends shoe inserts to distribute the force of supporting the body and decrease the stress it places on the knee.
Several factors affect the type of surgical procedures the doctor uses. Patients younger than 40 are better candidates for repairs than older patients are. Surgeons generally remove tears in the form of a flap. Tears to the outer portion of the meniscus have a better blood flow and repairs are more likely to heal than when the tear involves the center of the meniscus. If repairs are not likely to heal, WebMD indicates that the surgeon removes the torn cartilage.
Each knee joint has two menisci. According to the Mayo Clinic, these thickened pieces of cartilage form in cup shapes that provide cushioning between the shinbone and thighbone. Cartilage tears cause tenderness and swelling in the joint. The stiffness of the joint sometimes causes difficulty extending the knee.