Rehabilitation After a Meniscus Tear

The meniscus is a C-shaped piece of tough cartilage located in the knee, that acts as a shock absorber between the shinbone and the thighbone. There are two minisci within each knee. A meniscus tear may be the result of an activity that forcefully twists or rotates the knee. A torn meniscus is a common knee injury that may be caused by playing sports, or a traumatic injury, and often occurs when the knee joint is bent and the knee is then twisted. Torn menisci are common in athletes, but in some cases this condition may occur in older adults whose cartilage has worn away, as a result of many years of wear and tear of the joint.

Treatment for a torn meniscus varies and mild tears may be treated with conservative methods such as rest, ice and over-the-counter pain medication. Treatment for more severe tears often includes surgery to repair the meniscus, or to remove it and replace it with either donor or prosthetic materials. Although the methods used to treat a torn meniscus vary, rehabilitation is always necessary after the initial treatment, to restore full movement and mobility to the knee and help the patient return to all usual activities.

After the meniscus has healed has healed from the initial treatment and patients can bear weight on the leg and joint, a physical therapy regimen is implemented to strengthen muscles and increase mobility. Without proper rehabilitation, complications such as chronic pain, inflammation and weakness, may cause difficulty walking and performing physical activities.

The injured knee is often treated with a removable brace, and patients are typically advised not to put any weight on the leg for several weeks. A physical therapist will help the patient to walk safely using crutches or other assistive device. Once the brace has been removed and patients can begin moving their leg, physical therapy and home exercise are extremely important for a full recovery. Physical therapy treatments may include:

  • Muscle strengthening exercises
  • Gradual weight-bearing activities
  • Range of motion exercises
  • Balance training

Depending on the patient's physical job requirements or athletic activities, a physical therapist may create a tailored treatment plan. Recovery times vary for each patient, but most individuals can return to all normal activities within several months.

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