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Best Torn Meniscus Exercises & Stretches

Best Torn Meniscus Exercises & Stretches

Posted 1 Apr

A torn meniscus is a very common knee injury. It can be debilitating and render the person immobile until it's treated or fixed.

A meniscus is a pad of cartilage in the knee, that's positioned between the tibia and femur to act as support, to absorb shock and impact, and to protect the bones from wear and tear. There are two menisci in each leg - the medial and lateral menisci. The medial meniscus sits on the inside of the knee joint and the lateral meniscus sits on the outside of the knee.

A meniscus tear is usually a result of a sudden injury. When this cartilage is torn, it will often cause pain and swelling, and sometimes a piece of the cartilage can come loose and get caught in the joint, causing it to lock up.

While meniscus tears are commonly caused by an injury, this isn't always the case. A torn meniscus can also occur as a result of degenerative changes that happen over time.

The treatment of a torn meniscus will depend on the severity of the condition. In cases where the tear is minuscule, the body may be able to repair itself. However, in more serious cases, Knee arthroscopy and surgery may be required.

Whether surgery is conducted or not - a torn meniscus should always be rested until it's healed. However, once the area has healed the patient will likely be recommended to do physio on the area - through the use of stretches and motion exercises.

Below, is a look a general look at what a meniscus tear is, and six easy rehabilitation exercises that can be done at home to encourage recovery.

Common Symptoms of meniscal tears

People with meniscus tear may experience some, or all, of the following symptoms:

Strengthening exercises and stretches for a meniscus tear

Heel slides

  1. Lie on your back.
  2. Keep one knee straight, and bend the other knee so you slowly draw your heel up to your bottom. Ensure you have your knee bent so that you can pull only your heels all the way in.
  3. Slowly slide your heel back, so that both legs are flat on the ground again.
  4. Repeat this exercise ten times to complete a set.
  5. Complete a total of three sets.


Hamstring curls

  1. Lie on your stomach with your legs straight
  2. Bend one knee back towards your bottom.
  3. Slowly lower it back down so that both legs are straight again.
  4. Repeat on the other leg.
  5. Repeat this exercise ten times on each leg to complete a set
  6. Complete a total of three sets.


Straight leg raise

  1. Lie on the floor with your back to the ground and both legs straight out in front of you.
  2. Keep the right leg straight, and slowly raise it off the floor, as high as you can go.(preferably around 45 degrees).
  3. Slowly lower the leg back down to the original position.
  4. Repeat on the other leg.
  5. Repeat the straight leg raises ten times on each leg to complete a set
  6. Complete a total of three sets.



Mini squats

  1. Stand with your back and shoulders against a wall.
  2. Ensure you have your feet shoulder-width apart and place them about 30cms from the wall.
  3. Slightly bend your knees and lower your bottom towards the ground.
  4. Stop a third of the way down and hold the position for ten seconds.
  5. Slowly slide your body back up the wall, to its original position.
  6. Repeat this exercise ten times to complete a set
  7. Complete a total of three sets.


Figure four stretch

  1. Lie on your back with your legs straight on the ground.
  2. Cross your left leg over your right thigh so that your foot is resting on the thigh.
  3. Draw your left leg up so that your knees bent and gently pull it towards your chest.
  4. When you can feel the stretch, hold that position for 30-60 seconds
  5. Repeat on the other side.
  6. Repeat the stretch two more times on each side.


Standing hamstring stretch

  1. Stand with your feet flat on the ground and together.
  2. Slowly bend your right knee and place your left leg straight out in front, with your heel touching the ground and your toes in the air.
  3. Continue bending until you can feel the stretch in your hamstring.
  4. When you can feel the stretch, hold that position for 30-60 seconds
  5. Repeat on the other side.
  6. Repeat the stretch two more times on each side.

Aerobic Exercise for a torn meniscus

Whether Aerobic exercise is recommended for meniscal tears, will depend on the specific condition of the tear. A chronic meniscus injury will usually require complete rest, and there should be no weight bearing on them at all.

Smaller tears may benefit from aerobic exercise, but this should only be conducted under the recommendation of a health professional. If your doctor does recommend physical therapy through aerobic exercise in order to get back a range of motion, they will likely suggest something with low impact, like swimming, cycling or water aerobics.

Tips to prevent a meniscus tear

Pretty much all athletes run the risk of experiencing a meniscus tear at one point or another - particularly those who play a contact sport, like football and hockey.

While it's pretty much impossible to guarantee the prevention of a meniscus tear, there are some steps that people can take to help lower their likelihood of experiencing one. Below, are some useful tips that can help stop meniscus tears from occurring.

Build up your thigh muscles

You can help to safeguard your knees against a meniscus tear by building strong muscles in the thigh region. Quadriceps, hamstrings, abductors, and adductors are all groups of muscles that are located in the thighs. Strengthening these muscles will provide support for the knee area, and lower the likelihood of a meniscus tear. There is a list of appropriate stretches and exercises above.

Work on your flexibility

Flexibility improves the mobility of joints, which makes the movement of the knee joint easier, and less likely for knee injuries to occur when it is twisted or bent. Flexibility can also help the body prevent degeneration in the area, which can play a factor in causing a meniscus tear.

You can improve the flexibility in your lower body by doing stretches daily. We've listed a few appropriate stretches above.

Always warm-up before exercising

The importance of warming up before exercising is universally known - but why is it so critical? There's a number of reasons why everyone should warm up before participating in aerobic activity. Warming up will increase the body and muscle temperature, which enhances the supply of oxygen into the muscle and allows it to increase more energy. A warm-up will also help to stabilise your knee, which can help prevent a meniscus tear.

Slowly increase aerobic exercise

When the aerobic energy exerted is much higher than usual, the muscles will be shocked, and become fatigued. You are a higher risk for injury when your muscles are fatigued. To help prevent muscles from becoming fatigued, levels of exercise should slowly be increased. For example, if you train for soccer for two hours each day, you can increase it to two hours and 20 minutes per day for a week, before increasing again. A good rule of thumb is to only increase the aerobic exercise by a maximum of 10% per week.

Rest

It's important to always listen to your body - particularly when injuries are involved. If someone experiences a very small meniscus tear, it may be able to heal on its own. However, if the tear is ignored and the person keeps exercising and putting pressure on the area, the tear may get bigger, and a piece of the cartilage may break off, and become caught in the knee, causing it to lock.

Both of these scenarios could require serious surgery and a considerable amount of recovery time. So, if you are experiencing pain in the knee area, you should have it checked by a medical professional, and ensure that it's rested and not escalated.

When to see a podiatrist?

If you're experiencing pain in your knee, it's very important to have it checked out immediately. The knee is the biggest joint in the body, and there is a range of different injuries that can occur within it. While a meniscus can be a complicated and painful injury - and ACL is usually much more serious, and will often require surgery.

Furthermore, if a meniscus tear isn't fixed, it can cause long-term knee problems like arthritis and soft tissue damage.

So, it's very important for a professional to determine what exactly is wrong with your knee, and what the best treatment plan or rehab program is to fix it. Often a knee rehab program will need to be implemented.

A qualified podiatrist will be able to conduct a physical exam or run some tests, to determine whether you have a torn meniscus or a different condition. They'll also be able to advise you on the best way to repair and rehabilitate your condition.


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