Each knee is home to two menisci, which are C-shaped pieces of cartilage that help provide cushioning between your shinbone and thighbone while also assisting in movement. These small pieces of cartilage handle a lot of stress as we move, and it should come as no surprise that tears to this cartilage are one of the more common types of knee injuries in athletes. They tend to develop during forceful twisting or rotation of the knee, so it’s easy to see how they can develop in sports like soccer, basketball and football.
Sports aren’t the only way people tear their meniscus, and even an action as innocuous as missing a step on a flight of stairs or playing around in the backyard can lead to tears. We see a lot of meniscus tears at our clinic, not only because they are a common injury, but because therapy is usually so beneficial for helping meniscus tears recover. In this blog, we explain why rehabbing a torn meniscus is so important.
Torn Meniscus Physical Therapy
If you’ve been diagnosed with a torn meniscus, your doctor will probably lay out the expected rehab timeline. Although surgery can typically fix the tear, if you can recover without an operation, this will be the preferred route. Rest can help in the short term, but taking conservative treatment up a notch with physical therapy is beneficial for a couple of reasons:
- Increased Range of Motion – Physical therapy helps to ensure that the knee regains its pre-injury range of motion. Rest and immobility can lead to knee stiffness, which can be avoided with some gentle therapy exercises.
- Poor Blood Supply – Many people don’t know this, but the menisci don’t actually get a good supply of healthy blood from the heart. However, we can work to increase the oxygenated blood supply with some movement and physical therapy exercises, increasing the speed and likelihood of a successful rehab.
- Strength – Your meniscus tore because you overstressed the area, so you’re going to want to want to restrengthen the area to help prevent future issues. Physical therapy can help build muscles and tissues in the knee to support the joint and prevent the likelihood of recurrences.
Physical Therapy Exercises
So what are some ways to target the meniscus and the supporting structures to ensure the whole area makes a healthy recovery? You should always follow the routine put in place by your personal physical therapist, but some common exercises that target the right areas include:
- Single leg balance exercises
- Single leg raises
- Quadriceps exercises
- Weightless squats
- Stationary bicycling
Physical therapy for a torn meniscus won’t lead to recovery overnight, but it will lead to incremental improvements that should allow you to see progress on a week-to-week basis. It’s possible that you can recover from a torn meniscus without therapy, but it’s extremely unlikely that you’ll make as full a recovery as you would with physical therapy, so consult with a PT team today if you’ve been diagnosed with a torn meniscus. For more information or to talk to our team, reach out to OrthoPT Rehab today.