A meniscus tear is damage sustained to the meniscus—the wedge-shaped cartilage in the knee that provides it with cushioning and increased stability. Meniscus tears are most prevalent among athletes who are involved in contact sports or in those that entail sudden or forceful pivots and deep squatting. However, the injury can also occur spontaneously in people suffering from an ongoing degeneration of the cartilage due to osteoarthritis.
If you notice symptoms of a meniscus tear (e.g., pain, swelling, stiffness, feeling as though your knee is locked, etc.), see your orthopedic doctor for proper intervention. They will do a thorough evaluation and devise the appropriate treatment plan.
If you have a grade 1 or 2 tear (mild or moderate case), your orthopedic doctor will likely recommend physical therapy as the mainstay of conservative treatment. Grade 3 tears typically require surgery, but your orthopedic doctor will also recommend physical therapy to help facilitate a successful recovery.
Physical Therapy as First-Line Treatment for Meniscus Tears
Research points out that physical therapy, when used as a first-line treatment for mild or moderate cases of meniscus tears, provides effective symptom relief, greatly enhances the flexibility and strength of the muscles supporting the knee and helps in gradual recovery from the injury.
Your physical therapist may use a combination of these modalities:
o Manual Therapy- to assist with helping you regain your motion and decrease stiffness in the knee joint
o Exercises – to improve your motion and strengthen the hip and knee to assist in unloading some of the added forces and pressure to the knee joint. They may also teach you exercises to continue at home to assist you in maintaining or keeping your knee as healthy as possible.
Physical Therapy After Surgery
If your injury does not respond to a course of physical therapy, your orthopedic doctor will likely recommend surgery to completely address the problem. Nonetheless, as mentioned, physical therapy is still imperative— to have you safely regain your normal function and return to your previous level of activity.
If you underwent surgical removal of your torn meniscus (meniscectomy), your physical therapist will use the methods stated above both to alleviate postoperative pain and help you gradually regain your strength and mobility. Your physical therapist will likely have you use an assistive device (e.g., crutch or cane) and teach you the proper way to place your weight on your knee when you stand and walk to allow your knee to gradually adjust to the pressure.
If you had a meniscal repair, your rehabilitation, compared to that with a meniscectomy, may be more extensive and longer, as your physical therapist will have to ensure the repaired area is well protected as it heals. However, they will likely utilize the same treatment modalities to achieve the same goal. And as with a meniscectomy, they will have you use a crutch or cane and teach you the proper technique to progressively put weight on your knee.
Physical Therapy Services in Johnson City, Kingsport, and Bristol, TN
At Watauga Orthopaedics, our board-certified orthopedic surgeons and highly skilled physical therapists work together to achieve a common goal—to help you move without pain and limitations and get you back to enjoying your life the way you did before your injury.
Call us today at (423) 282-9011 to arrange a consultation with one of our orthopedic doctors or physical therapists. You may also click here to request an appointment.