Torn Meniscus

  • Medical Author:
    Benjamin Wedro, MD, FACEP, FAAEM

    Dr. Ben Wedro practices emergency medicine at Gundersen Clinic, a regional trauma center in La Crosse, Wisconsin. His background includes undergraduate and medical studies at the University of Alberta, a Family Practice internship at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario and residency training in Emergency Medicine at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

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What is rehabilitation and recovery like for a patient with a meniscus tear?

If a conservative, nonsurgical approach is taken, the pain and swelling of a torn meniscus should resolve within a few days. Recovery and rehabilitation becomes a long-term commitment, as does making certain that the muscles surrounding the knee are kept strong to promote joint stability. Maintaining an ideal body weight, and avoiding activities that cause pain are adjuncts that are often recommended.

If knee arthroscopy is performed, the rehabilitation process balances swelling and healing. The goal is to return range of motion to the knee as soon as possible. Physical therapy is an important part of the surgery process, and most therapists work with the orthopedic surgeon to return the patient to full function as soon as possible. Since the procedure is planned in advance, some health-care professionals advocate pre-hab. With rehabilitation prior to the procedure, the patient begins strengthening exercises for the quadriceps and hamstring muscles before surgery to prevent the routine muscle weakness that may occur immediately after an operation.

Once the swelling in the knee joint resolves, the goal of therapy is to increase the strength of the muscles surrounding the knee, return range of motion to normal, and promote and preserve stability of the joint.

Elite athletes return to practice within one to two weeks after surgery, but they are a motivated group of people who spend hours each day in rehabilitation. For most other patients, return to mild routine activity occurs in less than six weeks.

Most patients do well after surgery. The prognosis for return to normal activity is good but depends upon the motivation of the patient to work hard with their physical therapist and to continue that work after formal therapy has been completed.

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. Continue Reading

Reviewed on 4/19/2016

Dutton, M. Dutton's Orthopedic Examination, Evaluation and Intervention, 3rd edition. McGraw Hill Medical, 2012.

Johnson, D.H., and D.A. Pedowitz. Practical Orthopedic Sports Medicine and Arthroscopy. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2007.


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