Most Important Factors in Recovery from Meniscal Tear Surgery

Jun 19, 2022

Factors in Recovery from Meniscal Tear SurgeryDid you know that a torn meniscus is one of the most common knee injuries? This type of injury is especially common among athletes, who put a lot of stress and pressure on their bodies. Your knees depend on the meniscus to absorb shock while running, jumping, and twisting. The meniscus is a tough piece of rubbery cartilage between the shinbone and thighbone. Each knee joint has two menisci that provide cushion and support for the knee. A sudden rotation or pressured pivot can lead to a meniscus tear.

While common in contact sports, a meniscus tear can happen to anyone, and it’s important to recognize the signs and symptoms so you can get the treatment you need. In some cases, you may be able to walk around on the affected knee after a torn meniscus. But in other cases, you may require meniscal tear surgery to repair the damage. Pain, swelling, and reduced or restricted range of motion in the knee can leave you feeling like your knee will not be able to support you. If a piece of the menisci comes loose, it can block the knee joint from functioning correctly and cause the joint to slip. Visit your doctor as soon as possible if you suspect a meniscus tear and learn about the treatment options available to you.

What Causes a Meniscus Tear?

Some tears of the menisci are small and stable, leaving a good blood supply in the area. Other types of meniscus tears can disrupt healthy blood flow to the area and result in joint instability. The type and severity of the damage you experience can depend on the cause of your meniscus tear. Here are four common causes of a meniscus tear.

Contact Sports

High-contact sports like football, basketball, tennis, and hockey can put you at greater risk for a meniscus tear. A sudden twist or turn of the knee can damage the cartilage. A collision with another player or the ground can also cause the knee to bend or twist in a way that tears the meniscus. Any sudden movement that puts too much strain and stress on the knee joint can end up aggravating or damaging tissue in the knee, including the menisci.

Heavy Lifting

If you engage in heavy lifting through your job, while moving to a new house, or lifting weights, proper form is key. When you bend into a deep squat, you depend on muscles and other tissues to provide the necessary support and stability to the knee joint. However, a sudden twist while your knee is bent can lead to a meniscus tear. If you have a small meniscus tear, then heavy lifting like this could also cause the tear to become worse.


Older adults are also at greater risk of tearing their meniscus due to general wear and tear on the body, known as degeneration. Over time, the cartilage in the joints can weaken and become more susceptible to injury. A health condition like osteoarthritis can also lead to continued degeneration and put your knee at greater risk for a torn meniscus. While meniscus tears are common in older adults, they must be treated promptly and effectively to help avoid further damage.

When Does a Meniscus Tear Require Surgery?

Meniscus Tear Require SurgeryWhile meniscus tears are common, they do not always require surgery. Your orthopedic doctor will help you determine whether or not surgery is the right option for you. A physical exam will test your range of motion and assess your symptoms of a meniscus tear. Talk to your doctor about whether you have noticed any difficulty with certain movements and if you feel like your knee is locking or catching. If you are unable to bend your knee after straightening it, then you need to contact your doctor right away. Your doctor may order diagnostic imaging tests to confirm the diagnosis of a torn meniscus. A knee X-ray does not show if the meniscus is torn, but it can rule out this injury if the doctor suspects other causes. An MRI is typically used to diagnose a meniscus tear because it provides your doctor with multiple, detailed images of your knee. An ultrasound or arthroscopy can also be used to diagnose a torn meniscus.

In some cases, you may be able to treat a torn meniscus with more conservative techniques. Nonsurgical options for a torn meniscus include rest, ice, compression, and elevation. Rest your knee to avoid bearing weight on the affected knee and avoid activities that make your pain and other symptoms worse. Icing your knee will help reduce pain and swelling in the area. A compression wrap or bandage can also help reduce inflammation around the knee. You can also elevate your knee above your heart to reduce swelling. Anti-inflammatory medications may also help temporarily relieve pain and inflammation. You may be able to engage in physical therapy for a torn meniscus to help you strengthen muscles that support the knee and improve your mobility and stability in the area.

When a torn meniscus does not respond to more conservative treatment approaches, surgery may be your next best option. The most common type of meniscal tear surgery is arthroscopic meniscus surgery, where the orthopedic surgeon will insert a tiny camera and tools through incisions around the knee. This type of procedure may be done with regional anesthesia to numb your body from the waist down or with general anesthesia where you are asleep for the procedure. A knee arthroscopy will involve looking at the torn meniscus to determine the best course of action. Your surgeon may perform a meniscus repair, where the torn pieces of cartilage are sewn back together. Or your surgeon may perform a partial meniscectomy to trim and remove any damaged cartilage but leave healthy tissue behind.

Key Factors in Meniscal Tear Treatment & Recovery

If you have pain and swelling in your knee, then you might be dealing with a torn meniscus. Talk to your doctor about what will work best for you to ensure a full recovery. The decision on whether or not to undergo surgery for a torn meniscus will depend on some key factors. The size and location of the tear obviously play a large role in what type of treatment will be best for you. Here are other key factors that your doctor will take into consideration for your treatment options and recovery.

Age & Weight

Young, healthy adults can experience a rapid recovery from a torn meniscus, while older adults will typically experience a longer recovery period from the same injury. Your weight can also impact your recovery time because the more weight you carry, the more pressure this puts on your knee joint while you heal and recover.

Activity Level

People who live active lifestyles may have the strength and resilience to bounce back faster from a torn meniscus than others. However, a meniscus tear can prevent you from getting extremely active again until after you have properly healed.

Related Injuries

If you suffered any other injuries at the time of the meniscus tear, this could impact your treatment options and recovery process. For example, a torn meniscus along with a torn ACL may require more extensive surgery and physical therapy for recovery and rehabilitation.

Other Health Conditions

Certain health conditions like osteoarthritis can put you at greater risk for a meniscus tear and even impact your recovery time. If you have weakened cartilage in the area and persistent arthritis, then this can impact your available healthy tissue and mobility.

Type of Surgery

The different types of surgery for a torn meniscus will also impact your recovery time. A surgery where part of the damaged cartilage was removed may have a shorter recovery time compared to a surgery where the surgeon sutured the edges of the tear together. Rehabilitation with a physical therapist is almost always recommended after surgery to support your healing process.

Physical Therapy after a Meniscal Tear Surgery

Physical Therapy after a Meniscal Tear SurgeryYou can go to physical therapy as part of a conservative approach to healing from a torn meniscus or as part of the recovery and rehabilitation process after surgery. Either way, the goal of physical therapy will be to help you regain your strength and mobility. A physical therapist can help you set realistic expectations for your recovery timeline. Here are the ways physical therapy can help you recover from a torn meniscus.

Improve Range of Motion

When you first see a physical therapist for a torn meniscus, they will want to assess your current range of motion. This means making note of how far you can flex and extend the knee without pain. Then, they will develop a plan that includes stretches, exercises, and other therapeutic techniques to gently improve your range of motion. Mobility exercises will help you safely get back on your feet and return to small, daily activities like moving around your home. Your physical therapist may also teach you how to effectively wrap your knee and use crutches to keep weight off the knee while it heals.

Stretch Leg Muscles

During the recovery process, your physical therapist will help you stretch your leg muscles to avoid them getting stiff or weak. While you may be tempted to keep all weight off your leg and avoid movements, this can actually make your pain worse and cause you to lose range of motion and strength in the area. Stretching your leg muscles will keep them loose and prepare you for exercises designed to improve your strength and mobility. Stretching can also help promote healthy blood flow to the area, allowing for oxygen and nutrients to support the body’s natural healing response. Stretches will also make your physical therapy exercises more effective.

Braces and Assistive Devices

Your doctor or physical therapist may recommend a knee brace to offload some of the pressure on your knee and provide more support. This can also help relieve your pain and improve your mobility while you recover. A brace can also help protect you from re-injuring the area. The knee brace may limit the degree of flexion and rotation of your knee. Changes to the brace or in the type of brace will allow for gradual reintroduction to bending the knee. You may also need crutches immediately after meniscus surgery to help you walk. This will help you take the pressure off your knee while the pain and swelling get better over time.

Begin Physical Therapy Exercises

Your physical therapist will walk you through basic exercises as you begin to put more weight on the joint. Basic exercises like straightening your leg and raising it will help you maintain strength and regain mobility in the area. As you progress through your recovery and rehabilitation, your physical therapist will help you engage in more advanced exercises. When you exercise in physical therapy, you want to focus on healing without hurting. If certain exercises make your pain worse, then you need to let your physical therapist know so they can best help you. Advanced exercises like weights, squats, and deeper stretches will help you regain and improve your overall strength and mobility not just in your knee but also in the surrounding leg muscles and tissues, too.

Don’t let a knee injury like a torn meniscus keep you from your everyday routines and activities you enjoy. Visit AICA Orthopedics in Conyers to learn all your options for treatment and recovery with our team of multi-specialty doctors. We have orthopedic surgeons and physical therapists in one convenient location so you can meet with your team of doctors all in one place. Our Conyers orthopedic clinic can help diagnose, treat, and rehab meniscus tear injuries. We will talk to you about your options, including whether meniscal tear surgery is right for you. We also offer diagnostic imaging tools like X-rays and MRI scans on-site, so you don’t have to go to multiple places to get the treatment and care you need. Call or schedule an appointment with us today at AICA Orthopedics in Conyers.


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