Meniscus Tear: Rehabilitation Exercises
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A meniscus tear is a common knee joint injury. How well the knee will heal and whether surgery will be needed depends in large part on the type of tear and how bad the tear is. Work with your doctor to plan a rehabilitation (rehab) program that helps you regain as much strength and flexibility in your knee as possible. Your rehab program probably will include physical therapy and home exercises.
Exercises that might be prescribed for rehab are listed here. Work with your doctor and physical therapist to design a program that will best help you reach your rehab goals.
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A meniscus tear is a common knee joint injury. Meniscus tears commonly occur during sports when the knee is twisted while it is partially flexed and the foot is firmly planted on the ground, but they are also common with normal movement in people older than age 40 whose menisci (plural of meniscus) are worn down. The medial and lateral menisci of the knee are two crescent-moon-shaped disks of tissue (fibrocartilage) that lie between the ends of the upper leg bone and the lower leg bone that form the knee joint. The rubbery tissue acts as a shock absorber between the upper and lower leg bones, evenly distributing the load across the knee.
Symptoms of a meniscus tear depend on the size and location of the tear and whether other knee injuries occurred along with it. Pain at the inside of the knee can point to a tear to the medial meniscus. Pain at the outer side of the affected knee may point to a tear to the lateral meniscus.
Treatment of a meniscus tear depends upon the size, type, and location of the tear, your age, your health status and activity level, and when the injury occurred. Treatment options include:
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After a physical exam and, possibly, diagnostic tests, you and your doctor will make a treatment plan for your meniscus tear.
A meniscus tear may result in long-term injury to your knee.
The goals of rehabilitation (rehab) are to restore range of motion, strength, and endurance of your knee. A rehab program usually includes treatment with a physical therapist at a therapy center and home treatment in your home or at a gym or health club. Your physical therapist will design a program that guides you through exercises to reach your rehab goals. Your rehab schedule takes into account your health status, age, and activity expectations. In general, as you see less of your therapist, you do more on your own.
Recovery from a meniscus tear depends on many factors. If the tear is minor and your symptoms go away, your doctor may recommend a set of exercises to increase your flexibility and strength.
If you have surgery to repair your meniscus, your surgeon may recommend that you do not move your knee more than absolutely necessary (immobilization) in the days after surgery. This may be followed by a period of limited motion before you are able to resume daily activities. Some doctors believe that it helps to begin a physical therapy and exercise program soon after surgery. Others believe that heavy stresses, such as running and squats, should be postponed for some months. Physical therapy that is guided by your doctor and designed for your individual needs is a key part of regaining strength and flexibility in your leg and helping prevent future degeneration in the knee joint.
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Your doctor's recommendations will be tailored to the condition of your knee and your individual preferences.
Rehabilitation (rehab) is not important after meniscus tear surgery.
For most tears, some simple exercises can help maintain muscle strength in the front of the thigh (quadriceps), back of the thigh (hamstrings), calf, and hip. All of these areas are important for your overall leg function while your knee heals after an injury or after surgery. Exercises should only be done on the advice of your doctor and only if you feel very minimal or no pain while you do them at home. The list below has links to specific exercises with pictures and instructions.
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Rehabilitation (rehab) is usually done in stages. It starts with gentle toning exercises and works up to more strenuous exercises for people who do not have arthritis and are on a track to return to sports or other activities.
In exercising my knee, I should do all the necessary repetitions, even if I feel increasing pain.
For more information about rehabilitation for a meniscus tear, talk to:
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