PT eDigest

Step Up to Therapy After a Meniscus Tear

The menisci, two semicircular pieces of knee cartilage located where the femur (thigh bone) and tibia (shin bone) meet, help diffuse the forces on the knee and act as shock absorbers. Meniscal tears are common. Young athletes often tear a meniscus when twisting with the knee flexed and the foot firmly planted. Older adults may develop degenerative “wear and tear” meniscal injuries.

Signs of a possible torn meniscus include:

  • swelling
  • joint pain
  • the knee “catching” and locking

In young adults, the surgeon may be able to repair the meniscus by reconnecting the torn ends. But most often, meniscal tears are treated with surgery called a partial meniscectomy performed as an outpatient procedure. The surgeon makes two small slits in the knee and removes the damaged portion of the meniscus and any loose fragments that can cause the knee to catch or lock.

After partial meniscectomy, you may have restricted range of motion in the knee, along with some pain and possible swelling. This is where visits to our office and a home exercise program can help you return to normal functioning more quickly. We can design a program to extend your range of motion and increase the flexibility of the knee. As your condition improves, we can add exercises to strengthen your quadriceps and hamstrings. Keeping these muscles strong helps stabilize the knee and reduce the risk of future injury.

Most people do not require prolonged physical therapy after partial meniscectomy if they diligently perform their exercise program at home. Young adults who have a torn meniscus reconnected may require more extensive physical therapy. Individuals whose goal is a rapid return to athletics may also need an intensive program of thigh muscle strengthening to protect against reinjury.

If you have undergone surgery to repair a torn meniscus, please see us. We can develop an individualized exercise regimen that will enable you to return to your sports and everyday activities while avoiding re injury to this very important structure.