A torn meniscus is one of the most common types of knee injuries. Any activity that causes you to forcefully twist or rotate your knee, especially when putting your full weight on it, can lead to a torn meniscus. Each of your knees has two menisci. These structures are c-shaped pieces of cartilage that act like a cushion between your shinbone and your thighbone. A torn meniscus may cause pain, swelling, and stiffness.
Some movements that can be painful with meniscal tears include walking, steps, squatting, and lunging. With massive tears, someone might feel a block to knee motion and experience difficulty straightening their knee fully. Fortunately, most types of meniscus tears don't feel this way and can be overcome without surgery.
In fact, research studies have shown that “clean-up” type of surgeries for small meniscal tears are ineffective. In 2013, the New England Journal even published a controlled study showed that surgery for meniscus tears in these patients was no better than fake surgery.
Following a meniscus injury, the first common-sense recommendation is to take a short break from activities that may aggravate the knee. These typically include movements that require twisting or full depth knee bends. Avoiding this type of activity allows inflammation to settle down and healing to take place. If pain persists, hands-on therapy can be very effective. For meniscus injuries creating "gapping" with bending and straightening can be powerful for pain relief.
A period of relative rest is the perfect time to address root problems that may have caused the meniscus injury to occur in the first place. Imbalances that cause movement compensations include missing mobility of the hips and ankles. A lack of strength in the quadriceps and hamstring muscles may also affect movement. In addition, imbalances at the core and hip muscles can lead to faulty knee mechanics during exercise.
The best way to know what is contributing to knee pain is to have an assessment performed. Once you know what your specific limitations are, you can get to work.
If weakness is found, learning how to activate muscles that are not firing well is important. Once pain is controlled and muscles engage better, the next step is learning how to move through patterns with proper technique.
To keep pain from a meniscus injury from returning, strength must be developed. Movements that may have been painful in the beginning now have their place. Squats, deadlifts, and lunges can develop the strength needed to prevent future injury.
When addressed with a specialized physical therapy program, meniscal tears are injuries that can resolve relatively quickly. However, ignoring pain and engaging in activity that further irritates the knee can cause more serious problems over time.
If you want to overcome a meniscus injury without surgery, the physical therapists at Movement Solutions would be glad to be a resource for you.
We have a free guide on overcoming knee problems that can give you further insight into knee problems and help kickstart your recovery. We are available for a free 15-minute phone consultation to talk about how your pain is affecting you and discuss your treatment options.
If you’re considering physical therapy, we offer a limited number of free Discovery Visits at our office. This 30-minute appointment an opportunity to have your questions answered, obtain clarity about your knee problem, and foster confidence that we can help you.
If you’re in pain and unsure about what your next steps should be, call us at (864) 558-7346 and ask how we can help.