What is the difference between CARTILAGE and MENISCUS?

(tow- MAY-toe) (tow –MAH –toe)


When people have pain in their knee, it’s about 50/50 if they ask me about their ‘cartilage’ or about their ‘meniscus’. Generally speaking, those terms are interchangeable because their differences are negligible from a functional standpoint.

Cartilage is the broad term that refers to the smooth and slippery covering at the articulating surfaces of all the bones in our body. In our knee we have “articular cartilage”, which is the smooth stuff that attaches directly to the bone and covers and surface of the bone that might rub against another bone. And in our knee we also have “meniscus cartilage”, which is the stuff that is layered in between the bones that acts as a cushion. An MRI specialist might differentiate between these two when they read an image. A surgeon might differentiate when they dictate their surgery report. A physical therapist might get a prescription from a doctor that differentiates, but that is unlikely. Why is it unlikely that they’d leave out the details? Because by the time we are dealing with the symptoms of either a cartilage or meniscus tear we are looking at it from a clinical standpoint, meaning, how it presents functionally -how do you FEEL. And deciding what exercises are the best ones to help you feel better are based on your symptoms, not on the specifics of an MRI. There really aren’t any noticeable differences that you’ll feel between a tear in your cartilage or a tear in your meniscus, nor would it change our treatment plan in any way.

At INSIGHT INTO INJURY’s Cartilage/Meniscus Tear full length PT session video I won’t be differentiating. But you will learn how to feel better from either condition!

Here is a short but informative article that goes into more detail about the difference between cartilage and meniscus in layman’s terms.

I hope it helps!

And if you are dealing with knee pain from a meniscalage tear (lol), please check out the ‘what hurts’ section on my website INSIGHT INTO INJURY. Not everyone needs to have surgery if they have a tear, so check it out to learn what to do to start feeling better today!