Some people may develop knee pain a year after meniscus surgery. This could occur for various reasons, including difficulties with postsurgical rehabilitation, re-tearing the cartilage, or developing arthritis. Long-term side effects may also develop.

The meniscus is a crescent-shaped piece of cartilage that sits between the knee bones. There are two in each knee joint. Meniscus surgery involves removing, trimming, or repairing a torn meniscus.

This article reviews possible causes of knee pain following meniscus surgery and their associated treatment options. It also considers the potential long-term side effects of meniscus surgery and offers advice on when to speak with a doctor. Finally, it answers some frequently asked questions about meniscus surgery.

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In some cases, people who undergo meniscus surgery may develop knee pain sometime afterward. Below are some possible causes of knee pain a year on from meniscus surgery.

Meniscus tear

Surgery to repair a torn meniscus may make a person more susceptible to future meniscus tears or other meniscus injuries.

A 2020 study notes that the risk of reinjury may differ according to which of the two menisci was initially torn. Each knee contains a lateral meniscus that sits toward the outside of the knee, and a medial meniscus, which sits toward the inside. According to the study, as many as 36.4% of people who undergo medial meniscus surgery will re-tear their medial meniscus. The risk of re-tearing the lateral meniscus is much lower.

The 2020 study also notes that the risk of a re-tear may depend on whether the surgeon removed part or all of the torn meniscus during the initial surgery.

Whereas a partial meniscectomy involves removing only the torn portion of the meniscus, a full meniscectomy involves removing the entire meniscus to help reduce pain. This surgery carries a higher risk of people developing osteoarthritis.

Other factors that can increase the risk of a re-tear include being older and playing contact sports.

Insufficient rehabilitation

People who undergo meniscus surgery often require physical therapy as part of their rehabilitation. This helps improve joint strength, stability, and mobility so a person can eventually return to their usual activities. Postsurgical physical therapy programs typically last 4 to 6 weeks.

Insufficient rehabilitation can impair the healing process and increase the risk of future injury. It may also cause a gait issue that puts additional stress on the knee, leading to pain.

Some factors that can have a detrimental effect on rehabilitation include:

  • missing physical therapy appointments
  • not performing necessary exercises
  • returning to certain physical activities too soon

The treatment for knee pain following meniscus surgery will depend on the underlying cause of the pain.

Treatment for torn cartilage

If new knee pain is due to tearing the meniscus again, a person may only need conservative treatments. Examples include:

  • RICE, which stands for:
    • Rest: Resting the affected knee to reduce inflammation and swelling.
    • Ice: Applying ice for short intervals throughout the day to reduce pain and inflammation.
    • Compression: Applying a compression bandage to reduce swelling.
    • Elevation: Elevating the affected knee above heart height when sitting or lying down to reduce swelling.
  • steroid injections into the affected knee
  • nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs

If the above methods are ineffective, a person may require another surgery to repair the new tear or injury.

Knee arthroscopy (KA) is the most common procedure for repairing meniscus tears. The risk of complications following this type of surgery is around 1%.

Anecdotal evidence suggests pain and swelling may occur after surgery.

Learn more about knee arthroscopy.

If a person develops pain sometime after meniscus surgery, it is best to make an appointment with a doctor. The doctor will work to identify the cause of the pain and provide an appropriate treatment plan.

Although research suggests a low incidence of complications such as blood clots, doctors will want to ensure they reduce these risks by monitoring and assessing pain following surgery.

Below are answers to some commonly asked questions about meniscus surgery.

How long should my knee hurt after meniscus surgery?

The time it takes to recover from meniscus surgery depends partly on the type of surgery.

The typical recovery time for a meniscus repair is around 3–6 months because the damaged pieces of the meniscus need time to heal back together. For a meniscectomy, it is typically about 3–6 weeks. In either case, a person will likely experience some pain while their knee is recovering.

How do I know if my meniscus repair failed?

If a person experiences persistent pain, swelling, or other symptoms following meniscus surgery, they should contact their doctor. These could be signs that the person has reinjured their knee or developed postsurgical complications that require treatment.

Meniscus surgery involves repairing or removing torn cartilage in the knee. There are several types, but knee arthroscopy is the most common.

Following meniscus surgery, a person may develop new knee pain. This can occur for several reasons, including reinjury or problems with postsurgical rehabilitation. It may also develop due to postsurgical complications, such as arthritis.

The treatment for new knee pain may vary depending on the underlying cause. A person will need to discuss new symptoms with a doctor to obtain a proper diagnosis and appropriate treatment.