Bucket Handle Meniscus Tear Treatment Plan

Have you ever heard about bucket handle meniscus tears? Chances are that you have ever witnessed a person who has ever had this condition in the past. In most cases, bucket handle meniscus tears are normally very common among young athletes. Also, they can still occur in older athletes too. However, if you are under 35 years of age, chances of experiencing bucket handle meniscus tears are very high.

It is important to note that a bucket handle tear is normally unique as the entire meniscus tears, then flips over and becomes stuck in the middle of the knee joint. In fact, the edges of the tone meniscus usually flip over like a bucket handle, thus the name. Other times, the edges of the torn meniscus can actually flip over and then get stuck in the knee joint. However, the bucket handle will mostly affect the medial meniscus. Before we dive more into this topic, it is important that you know what is a meniscus and the injuries associated with it.

The meniscus is basically a piece of cartilage that provides a buffer between bones. To start with, your knee normally has two menisci. These include; medial and lateral menisci. Your medial meniscus is normally C-shaped and usually protects the inside portion of the knee. The lateral meniscus, on the other hand, is usually U-shaped and usually rests on the outer half of the knee joint. Both of them normally work together in a bid to take pressure off the knee joint. However, menisci are subject to tear from time to time due to many reasons. One of those injuries that are associated with this cartilage is a full-thickness tear, commonly known as bucket handle tear.

A commonplace to get the meniscus tear is the knee. Since the bucket handle meniscus tear normally affects the knee, you are likely to experience a lot of swelling and pain in this region. In fact, your mobility might get hampered a great deal. Also, it might be difficult for you to flex and strengthen your knee with precision.

If you have this condition, it is important that you seek treatment early enough as these tears can be very large. Sometimes, the bucket handle tear can also lock the knee. As a result, you might not be able to straighten your knee the way you please. Since your knee might not go back to its pristine condition on its own, you should visit an experienced and knowledgeable physician for proper treatment.


Like we mentioned above, you can readily get bucket handle meniscus tears at any age. However, if you are below the age of 35 years, and you usually engage in athletic activities, chances of experiencing this condition are very high. In most cases, the bucket handle meniscus tear is usually caused by twisting injuries such as when you plant the knee and foot down by force. Another cause is when you change weight or turn too quickly.

It is worth noting that the meniscus will start to weaken when you are in your 30 years old and above. Therefore, as you age, you will be more vulnerable to this injury. Besides the above-mentioned causes, the following are other causes of this injury:

  • Squatting
  • Climbing stairs
  • Taking a misstep whenever you are walking and twisting your knee

Apart from the causes mentioned above, you can have a chronic bucket handle meniscus tear as a result of degenerative changes in your knee joint. For instance, if you usually suffer from arthritis, chances of getting this injury are very high.

This is because arthritis normally makes the bones of your knee joint rub against each other. Sometimes, these areas can actually become irregular and rough instead of being smooth. As a result, you might get bucket handle meniscus tears in the long run.


Although there are many symptoms of a bucket handle tear, one of the most common symptoms is pain in the knee. You will note that the pain is usually localized in specific places of the knee where the tear has occurred. Other times, it can be felt throughout the knee.

Some, they usually experience excruciating pain as a result of this injury. However, others, normally experience moderate pain. This depends on your individual pain tolerance. Besides pain, other symptoms include:

  • Stiffness of the knee
  • Swelling in the knee region

If you are suffering from this injury, you might not be able to bear weight on the knee. In fact, you will feel a popping sensation when you move it. Since your joint will be locked, you will not be able to fully straighten your knee from a bent position. What happens is that you will be immobile as you will not be able to fully straighten your knee properly.

Most of those patients who have this injury usually claim that the knee feels loose or unstable. In most cases, you might experience a lot of clunking from time to time. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, chances of having a bucket handle meniscus tear are very high.


The good news is that a bucket handle meniscus tear is not challenging to diagnose. All you need to do is to visit a doctor so that your knee can be examined well. In most cases, the doctor will perform magnetic resonance imaging or what is commonly known as an MRI scan so as to determine the type and location of the meniscus tear. This is because bucket handle tears are normally very clear on MRI.

Here, the MRI will show the classic ‘double PCL’ sign where the meniscus fragment rests. Also, it will show the posterior cruciate ligaments (PCL), making the ligament look as if it was duplicated.

Therefore, if you hear a distinct pop in the knee region when you are exercising back at home, you should visit a doctor for examination. Also, any form of swelling or locking warrants a visit to your nearest doctor.

Treatment Options

In most instances, doctors will recommend that you undergo knee surgery in order to repair a bucket handle meniscus tear. However, there are a few exceptions. To start with, if you have a bucket handle tear that does not have any symptoms, you will be exempted from undergoing knee surgery. Also, if you have a history of severe arthritis, this treatment might not essentially relieve your symptoms. This is usually the case if you are suffering from grade 3 or grade 4 arthritis.

In case you have a minor tear, it is advisable that you consider conservative treatment and time. However, this will depend on where in the meniscus, the injury is situated. In this case, you should consider taking a rest and regular icing. Also, it entails taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication as the knee heals.

Besides the treatment mentioned above, the doctor might recommend platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy. It is important to note that this is a non-surgical treatment method. In fact, this treatment has worked well for most patients. This shows that non-surgical options can still help alleviate this situation more effectively.

Apart from the non-surgical methods of treatment, the doctor can recommend surgical treatment in order to repair the torn meniscus. In most cases, these professionals normally do this through knee arthroscopy. During this process, the doctor will put a small camera in the knee to see the meniscus tear.

Basically, he will make small incisions and inserting instruments into the incisions so as to access the knee joint and repair the affected area. After that, the doctor will sew the damaged parts together so that your knee can heal.

Other times, the doctor might not manage to repair the damage in your knee. As a result, he or she will remove the affected portion. This will go a long way in reducing some symptoms of bucket handle meniscus tear. By removing the torn meniscus from the knee joint, the remaining meniscus will be smaller than normal. However, you might be vulnerable to osteoarthritis. Therefore, a repair of the torn meniscus is usually preferred over its removal.

Recovery Time

Once you have undergone this treatment, your doctor will recommend that you avoid bearing a lot of weight on the affected leg for about 6 weeks. During this period, you might have to walk in crutches and wear a special brace known as a knee immobilizer. This brace normally helps fasten the healing time.

For optimal results, you should consider participating in physical therapy from time to time. Here, you will be able to do a number of physical therapy exercises that will enable you to heal faster. Also, these exercises will improve the stability, mobility, and flexibility of the knee.

After a period of 4 to 5 months after surgery, you will be at liberty to return to sport and play different games. However, if the doctor considered meniscectomy partial surgery, you might be able to return to sports after 6 weeks as the recovery process is normally quite fast.

Is it possible for the meniscus to tear again? Yes, it is possible. However, these scenarios are quite rare. If you have a bucket handle meniscus tear, you can still lead a normal life if the torn meniscus is treated promptly and it heals well.

However, if you have large meniscus tears, non-surgical treatment might not work well for you. Besides this, timing is very important. If the bucket handle tear is fixed within a few weeks from the time it is diagnosed, you can trust that you will get quality results. If the meniscus is torn to the extent that it loses its shape, repairing it might be a difficult endeavor.

Frequently Ask Questions

Will A Knee Brace Help With A Meniscus Tear?

Yes. If you discover that you have a swollen and aggravated knee after sudden twisting or impact, you should consider wearing a knee brace. This is because you might have injured your meniscus unawares. The good news is that a knee brace normally provides mild to moderate medial or lateral support and compression to fully surround the meniscus, thereby protecting it.

Will A Steroid Shot Help A Meniscus Tear?

Yes. This is because it helps decrease the inflammation and the pain caused by a torn meniscus. However, it does not help in the healing of the torn meniscus. Also, it does not improve any mechanical symptoms. It is worth noting that if the meniscus is repairable, there is no need to take a steroid as it might impair the healing of the meniscus in the long run.

Can A Bucket Handle Meniscus Tear Heal On Its Own?

No. You will note that a bucket-handle meniscus tear is basically a tear in which the inner torn fragment flips back and forth like the handle of the bucket. Since it might require surgery for a few reasons, this injury might not essentially heal on its own.

Will Walking On A Torn Meniscus Make It Worse?

Unless the torn meniscus has locked the knee, you can freely walk, sit, stand, and even sleep without pain. However, if a torn meniscus has locked the knee, you might experience pain anytime you try to flex the knee. As such, you might not even be able to walk.

What Happens If A Meniscus Tear Is Left Untreated?

If the torn meniscus is not treated in time, the damaged part might become loose and lip into the joint. As a result, you might need surgery in order to restore full knee function. In fact, untreated meniscus tears usually increase in size over time and can lead to health complications such as arthritis and so on.

Is Heat Or Cold Better For Torn Meniscus?

During the first 3 days after the injury, the doctor might recommend that you apply ice to the knee 3 times a day for about 15 minutes at a time. This will go a long way in reducing swelling. After that, you can apply a heating pad or another heat source. Here, you can consider using heat wrap so as to increase blood flow to the injured area. Besides improving blood circulation to the affected areas, heat also speeds up the healing process.

Final Recap

Although you can get bucket handle meniscus tears from time to time, the good news is that surgical repairs can help you keep you active and pain-free. The recovery process only takes a few weeks to months, depending on the kind of surgical process the doctor recommends. However, since you will be able to return to your full physical activities over time, there is no call for alarm. All you need to do is to visit your nearest doctor for him or her to examine your knee. After that, he will recommend whether you should undergo knee surgery or consider non-surgical procedures, and you will be good to go. Take care of your knee today, and you will lead a healthy and happy life.