Meniscus Tear Treatment With 4 Exercises To Avoid Surgery
A meniscus tear is a common cause of knee pain. Meniscus complaints can arise because the meniscus is irritated or torn.
In the past, surgeons thought that they could only solve a meniscus tear using surgery. Today, however, it is known that a meniscus tear heals in 95% of cases with the right exercises. Exercise therapy also reduces the risk of developing knee osteoarthritis later in life, which does happen after surgery.
In this article, Im going to tell you exactly how you can do this yourself. I describe the cause, symptoms, and treatments of a meniscus tear through 4 physical therapy exercises. You can read the story of one of our readers that followed our treatment plan successfully here.
So read on quickly.
How Do You Heal A Torn Meniscus Without Surgery
All in all, the goal of treatment, natural or otherwise, is to control both pain and inflammation, get your range of motion back to normal, and help get you stronger muscles.
If you had the injury from a certain sport, an added goal would be to improve certain mechanics that may have contributed to your meniscus injury.
All these are addressed in physical therapy but your therapist will also give you exercises and remedies to do at home, including the following:
Comprehensive Meniscus Tear Diagnosis
To diagnose a meniscus tear, we will first ask you about your symptoms. We may also order diagnostic tests including:
- Movement tests: We will move your knee and leg in different directions and ask you to squat and walk. These activities help us pinpoint the location of the meniscus tear.
- Imaging tests: We may use X-rays to rule out other conditions that are causing the knee pain. A magnetic resonance image scan can provide detailed pictures of soft tissue, like your meniscus, to confirm a diagnosis.
- Arthroscopic procedure: We may perform this minimally invasive procedure to help diagnose a meniscus tear. Well make a tiny incision in your knee and insert an arthroscope, a thin instrument with a camera. The arthroscope gives us an enlarged, detailed picture of your knee anatomy.
At Aurora, youll get a prompt, precise diagnosis from a team of experts, so you can get the treatment you need. Learn more about our orthopedic diagnosis process.
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When To See A Doctor
See your doctor if you experience any of the following symptoms after a suspected meniscal tear:
- locking of the joint, which can indicate a portion of damaged tissue is lodged in the knee joint
- extreme swelling of the knee joint that makes the knee hard to move
- extreme pain with moving the knee joint
- knee buckling or difficulty putting weight on the knee
You should also see your doctor if any of your symptoms worsen over time.
In some cases, a doctor may not be able to repair the meniscus. Instead, they may recommend removing damaged areas of tissue. This can reduce discomfort and movement restrictions.
Question 3 Of : What Other Non
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How Do Doctors Diagnose A Meniscus Tear
The diagnosis of a knee injury begins with the history and physical examination. If there is an acute injury, the doctor will ask about the mechanism of that injury to help understand the stresses that were placed on the knee. With chronic knee complaints, the initial injury may not be remembered, but many patients who participate in athletic events or training can pinpoint the specific timing and details of the injury. Non-athletes may remember a twist or deep bend at work or doing chores around the house.
There is a true art to the physical examination of the knee. From inspecting , palpating , and applying specific diagnostic maneuvers, the doctor, trainer, or physical therapist may often make the diagnosis of a torn meniscus.
Physical examination often includes palpating the joint for warmth and areas of tenderness, assessing the stability of the ligaments, and testing the range of motion of the knee joint and the power of the quadriceps and hamstring muscles. There have been many tests described to assess the internal structures of the knee. The McMurray test, named after a British orthopedic surgeon, has been used for more than 100 years to make the clinical diagnosis of a torn meniscus. The health care professional flexes the knee and rotates the tibia while feeling along the joint. The test is positive for a potential tear if a click is felt.
What Does The Pain Feel Like
Another difference between arthritis and a torn meniscus is how the pain feels.
- People with osteoarthritis often report an intermittent, dull, or aching pain. The breakdown of cartilage may cause the bones to grind against each other when moving, which can cause a feeling of stiffness or produce a crunching sound.
- People with a torn meniscus often complain of sharp, immediate pain following an injury. The pain may go away with rest and return again with movement, especially the same type that caused the injury. Tenderness to the inside or outside of the knee may indicate a meniscus tear.
See Knee Osteoarthritis Symptoms on Arthritis-health.com
Exactly how the pain feels will be determined by the severity and location of the arthritis damage or meniscus tear.
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Treating A Meniscus Tear
Minor tears usually don’t need surgery, especially if they are on the outer part of the meniscus where there is a good supply of blood. These tears should heal on their own fairly quickly. Treatment can include the following:
- Use the RICE formula:
- Rest: Stop doing the activity that caused the injury, and give your knee plenty of time to rest. In some cases, this may involve using crutches to keep weight off your knee while it recovers.
- Ice: Apply ice or a cold compress to your knee several times a day for 15 minutes at a time until the pain and swelling go down. Wrap ice or ice packs in a towel. Don’t put them directly on the skin as this can cause tissue damage.
- Compression: Use an elastic compression bandage to keep swelling down and help support your knee.
- Elevation: Lie down and put pillows under your knee to raise it above the level of your heart. This will help keep swelling to a minimum.
As with any sports injury, the key to healing meniscus tears no matter how minor is not to get back into play too quickly. Your body will be stronger if you wait until your doctor gives you the OK to get back in the game.
Benefits Of Walking After A Meniscus Tear
After you have surgery to repair a meniscus tear, you may need to build up your strength in the muscles of your leg that support your knee.
Youll begin a graduated rehabilitation protocol that can vary depending on the surgeon who performs your surgery and the technique they used. Graduated rehabilitation exercises slowly increase in intensity and range of motion to avoid further injury.
A of studies spanning 21 years suggests that a faster rehabilitation with full weight bearing and early range of motion exercises might be a good path forward for many people.
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- Tâ¢Shellz WrapsÂ® are very comfortable to wear. The shell is soft and very flexible. The edges are soft and will not irritate your skin.
- The Energy Pad within is also flexible like cloth so the entire unit conforms to your body.
- Tâ¢Shellz WrapsÂ® are cut and sewn specifically to fit each part of the body so they fit comfortably. They come with velcro closures and are very easy to put on and take off.
- It is so easy to plug and un-plug you can stop and start your treatments with ease. This wrap is comfortable enough to wear all day long.
- The Tâ¢Shellz WrapÂ® is not affected by clothing. Wear it over or under it is up to you.
What Is The Meniscus Tear Recovery Time Without Surgery
As you aim to heal your meniscus naturally, it may be necessary to reduce sport activities or intense plyometrics that place your knee in unstable positions. This could take anywhere from 48 weeks depending on the severity and position of the tear.
During the healing process, your pain and stiffness should decrease along with any catching feeling within the joint. I recommend that you stick with the above exercises daily.
It is also important as you improve to incorporate other strengthening exercises into your routine. Try starting with some light pool exercises or begin incorporating more closed-chain exercises like in this bodyweight strengthening workout.
One of the best ways to protect your knees while your meniscus recovers is to provide added support. Thats why I recommend, medical-grade knee compression sleeves because they help to reduce inflammation, increase support and protect your knees.
You can wear them all day for improved stability or even while performing the above knee exercises.
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What Are Recommended Exercises Once A Torn Meniscus Has Been Repaired
Rehabilitation after an operation depends upon the individual patient and the response to surgery. Specific recommendations regarding weight-bearing and exercises will be customized for the patient by the surgeon and therapist.
Usually, the goal is to return the knee to normal function within four to six weeks.
How Is A Torn Meniscus Diagnosed
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and the circumstances of your injury, and conduct a physical examination. Radiological imaging studies will be ordered to confirm a diagnosis: X-rays will help rule out fractures or other bone injuries as the cause of pain, and high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging studies will help reveal the type and location of the tear.
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How Can I Prevent A Torn Meniscus
It can be hard to prevent an accidental injury. But you can reduce your risk of a torn meniscus if you:
- Strengthen the muscles that support and stabilize your knee.
- Wear a knee brace if you know your knee is unstable or weak.
- Work up slowly to more intense exercise activity.
- Wear athletic shoes that are appropriate for the sport youre doing.
What Causes A Meniscus To Tear
A forceful twist or sudden stop can cause the end of the femur to grind into the top of the tibia, pinching and potentially tearing the cartilage of the meniscus. This knee injury can also occur with deep squatting or kneeling, especially when lifting a heavyweight. Meniscus tear injuries often occur during athletic activities, especially in contact sports like football and hockey. Motions that require pivoting and sudden stops, in sports like tennis, basketball, and golf, can also cause meniscus damage. The sports injury does not have to occur during a game but can also occur in practice, where the same motions lead to meniscus damage.
The risk of developing a torn meniscus increases with age because cartilage begins to gradually wear out, losing its blood supply and its resilience. Increasing body weight also puts more stress on the meniscus. Routine daily activities like walking and climbing stairs increase the potential for wear, degeneration, and tearing. It is estimated that six out of 10 patients older than 65 years have a degenerative meniscus tear. Many of these tears may never cause problems.
Because some of the fibers of the cartilage are interconnected with those of the ligaments that surround the knee, meniscus injuries may be associated with tears of the collateral and cruciate ligaments, depending upon the mechanism of injury.
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How To Diagnose A Meniscus Tear
Your doctor will perform some movement tests on your affected knee and will ask for an MRI.
The MRI will show:
- Location, size, and pattern of the meniscus tear.
- Whether there are other knee structures affected.
That information combined with your physical examination and personal goals will help you and your healthcare providers design a treatment plan that fits your needs.
Nonsurgical Treatment For A Meniscus Tear
Treatment depends on the size, type, and location of the tear, but nonsurgical treatments are often used to treat the injury initially. They include the following:
Some meniscus tears improve over time with rest, activity restriction, and keeping the knee and leg elevated when possible. It is particularly important to avoid activities that involve twisting, rotating, or pivoting the knee in any way. Walking aids such as crutches may be recommended to take pressure off of the knee and to promote healing.
Using a cold compress or ice pack can help to reduce swelling and pain in the knee. Elevate the knee and leg, wrap the ice pack in a towel , and place the wrapped ice pack on top of the injured area of the knee for 15 minutes at a time. Do this four times per day.
If the ice pack is too cold to the point of causing pain, remove it right away. It should feel numbing and soothing, but not painful in any way.
Over-the-counter pain-relief medications may help to relieve the knee pain and to reduce inflammation while the cartilage heals. However, taking too much can cause liver damage, so talk to your orthopedist about which medicine would be best while your knee heals.
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What Other Symptoms Accompany This Pain
When a meniscus tear occurs, in addition to pain, youll experience other symptoms. For example, leg movements will likely be limited. Itll be especially difficult to stretch or bend your leg.
In fact, when theres a tear, you might hear slight clicking sounds when you move the joint. Also, in some cases, meniscus pain is accompanied by your knee suddenly giving out. When this happens, its as if you cant hold yourself up and your knee will automatically bend.
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What Is The Recovery Time For A Meniscus Tear Without Surgery
It could be as fast as 4 weeks for minor tears but it could also take up to 12 weeks for more severe cases.
However, an underrated part of recovery is your adherence. So, if you want to get back to your usual activities faster, I highly suggest you be diligent with your stretches and exercises and be careful not to cause further injuries.
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What Is The Surgery For A Torn Meniscus
If surgery is required, a is most common. Minimally invasive incisions in the knee will be made using an arthroscope , a fiberoptic camera fixed with specialized surgical instruments. These instruments allow careful trimming of the torn meniscal fragments or, for some cases, a repair of the meniscal tear with sutures.
Since the meniscus has an important role in the long term health and function of the knee, the surgeon will always attempt to retain and repair any part of the meniscus that has the blood supply and the potential to heal. Most meniscal tears occur in the avascular part of the meniscus and cannot be repaired. In this case, the torn portion of the meniscus is removed. If the tear is large and occurs in a part of the meniscus with a good blood supply, then a repair may be performed.
In some degenerative meniscus tears, a portion will fragment and this loose fragment will cause symptoms of knee catching or locking. These may require surgical treatment. However, repair is generally not an option, since in most cases, the degenerated meniscus fragment has poor vascular supply and is thus not amenable to repair. Surgical treatment most often involves removal of the torn piece.
Introduction To The Knee
The knee is the largest joint in the body. The knee allows the leg to bend where the femur attaches to the tibia . The knee flexes and extends, allowing the body to perform many activities, from walking and running to climbing and squatting. There are a variety of structures that surround the knee and allow it to bend and that protect the knee joint from injury.
The quadriceps and hamstring muscles are responsible for moving the knee joint. When the quadriceps muscles contract, the knee extends or straightens. The hamstring muscles, located on the back of the thigh, are responsible for flexing or bending the knee. These muscles are also important in protecting the knee from being injured by acting to stabilize the knee and preventing it from being pushed in directions that it isn’t meant to go.
There are four ligaments that also stabilize the knee joint at rest and during movement: the medical and lateral collateral ligaments and the anterior and posterior cruciate ligaments .
Cartilage within the joint provides the cushioning to protect the bones from the routine stresses of walking, running, and climbing. The medial and lateral meniscus are two thicker wedge-shaped pads of cartilage attached to top of the tibia , called the tibial plateau. Each meniscus is curved in a C-shape, with the front part of the cartilage called the anterior horn and the back part called the posterior horn.
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