What Are The Best Meniscus Tear Exercises?
Watch the video to learn whic meniscus tear exercises to do, which exercises to avoid, and if doing exercises can really help a meniscus tear or if you'll need surgery.
Can Exercises Help A Meniscus Tear?
Before we talk about what exercises to do (and NOT to do) with a meniscus tear, it first helps to understand what the meniscus is and what happens when it's torn.
Anatomy Of The Knee Meniscus
The meniscus is found between the bottom part of the thigh bone (femur) and the top part of the lower leg bone (tibia).
The meniscus is a separate but attached structure on the inside and outside part of the knee. It functions as a shock absorber during daily activities like walking or sports that require running or jumping.
The meniscus also helps improve the stability of the knee.
Therefore, when the meniscus is torn, it often causes symptoms of instability in the knee.
What Causes A Meniscus Tear?
The most common cause of a meniscus tear is repeated “twisting” of the knee over a long period of time.
This can happen from from pivoting on the knee such as when making a cutting motion to change directions when running or from overpronating (flattening feet too much) when walking.
Meniscus tears can also be caused from a traumatic blow to the knee after a car accident or after a football tackle.
Is There A Test For Meniscus Tear?
Meniscus Tear MRI
The gold standard test for a meniscus tear is an MRI to see an “internal” picture of the knee.
However, there are some very good (and WAY less expensive) clinical tests for meniscus tears.
Thessaly Test For Meniscus Tear
The Thessaly test is a very specific test for a meniscus tear. That mean's a negative test won't rule out every meniscus tear, but if the test is positive, it's very likely that you have a meniscus tear.
The test is performed in standing on the sore leg with knee slightly bent.
To do the test, you twist side-to-side on the knee. If that motion causes instability or reproduces YOUR specific, familiar pain, then it's very likely that you have a meniscus tear.
Will I Need Surgery For A Meniscus Tear?
The good news is that most of the time, you do NOT need surgery for a meniscus tear.
Clinical studies show that even many people with meniscus tears on their MRI can recover just as well without surgery as with surgery.
The outer parts of the meniscus have a better blood supply than the deeper part, so sometimes tears in the deeper part of the meniscus do require surgery.
However, as we'll discus below, doing exercises that improve blood flow to the meniscus is a good way to help the meniscus to heal without surgery.
Exercises To Avoid With A Meniscus Tear
Before discussing what exercise are good for a meniscus tear, we should first cover what exercises to avoid with a meniscus tear.
Exercises to Avoid with a Meniscus Tear include:
- High-impact Exercises
- Exercises that involve twisting
- Deep squatting
- Resisted Hamstring exercises
As mentioned above, the meniscus acts as a shock absorber, so it will have diminished capacity to dissipate forces when it is torn.
Activities that result in increased downward forces on the meniscus will compress the thigh and lower leg bones together.
As a result, high-impact activity will increase the inflammation and can worsen a meniscus tear.
Running and jumping are prime examples of high-impact exercises to avoid with a meniscus tear.
Also mentioned above, twisting is a major cause of meniscus tears. Therefore, exercises that involve twisting such as golfing, tennis, swinging a baseball bat, or sports that require cutting and directional changes should be avoided in the early stages after a meniscus tear.
Deep squatting will aggravate the meniscal tear because the meniscus gets impinged at the back of the knee in a deep squat position. Heavy squatting also puts more pressure on the knee meniscus.
Squatting isn't necessarily a bad exercise if you have a meniscus tear, you just need to limit how heavy and how deep you squat.
Resisted Hamstring Exercises
One of the hamstring muscles called the semi-membranosis attaches to the back of the meniscus.
It's normal job is to pull the meniscus backward as you bend your knee to keep the meniscus in line with the joint.
However, if you already have a meniscus tear, doing heavy resisted hamstring exercises like leg curls on a leg curl machine can put extra tension on the meniscus.
What Meniscus Tear Exercises Are Good To Do?
Cardiovascular Exercise With Meniscus Tears?
The meniscus has the ability to repair itself, but it requires sufficient blood flow to the area to heal.
As a result, activities that increases blood flow, such as cardiovascular exercises, can help the meniscus to heal as long as they are not high-impact cardiovascular exercises.
Good cardiovascular exercises to do with a meniscus tear include walking, swimming, and riding a stationary bike.
Running is typically not recommended due to the high-impact forces/stresses that occurs at the knee, especially within the meniscus.
Range Of Motion And Stretching Exercises For Meniscus Tear
Gentle range of motion exercises and stretches can help if you have a meniscus tear.
A gentle hamstring stretch helps you to fully straighten your knee when walking as well as allow full better blood flow in the small blood vessels (capillaries) around the knee.
Bending the knee gently while seated or riding an exercise bike are good ways to help the meniscus to glide forward and backward with the knee as it bends and straightens.
What Else Beside Exercises Can Help Meniscus Tears?
Meniscus Tear Knee Brace
A meniscus tear can cause your knee to feel unstable.
Whether your knee is actually clinically unstable, or if it just feels unstable, wearing a hinged knee brace for a meniscus tear can be helpful to give you more confidence and peace of mind to do your daily activities without fear of your knee giving out.
Physical Therapy For Meniscus Tear
Although bracing and exercise can help meniscus tears, neither one address the root cause of the meniscus tear, such as poor movement patterns during daily activities or sports.
Even if the pain from a meniscus tear goes away, if you keep doing the activity that caused the meniscus tear in the first place, the meniscus tear can come back.
As the meniscus gets more and more worn down, it can put you at greater risk for knee arthritis.
Need Help For A Meniscus Tear?
If you'd like to find the root cause of your meniscus tear and how to get the pain to go away for good, tap the button below to request an appointment with one of our Specialists.