Pre- and post-surgery physical therapy for a meniscus injury is necessary to support recovery, reduce the risk of complications, and shorten recovery time.
The meniscus is composed of two C-shaped pieces of cartilage that serve as a cushion between the shinbone and thighbone. A meniscus injury can be caused by forcefully twisting or rotating the knee, either through aggressive pivoting or making sudden stops and turns. Other activities that can lead to a torn meniscus include kneeling, deep squatting, or heavy lifting.
Symptoms of a torn meniscus include:
Some meniscus tears may only require conservative treatment — rest, ice, and medication, while others may require surgical repair and physical therapy. If pre-surgery physical therapy fails to provide relief, patients may need surgery, followed by physical therapy designed to increase and maintain knee strength and stability.
The rehabilitation goals of the first phase of physical therapy include reducing swelling, minimizing pain, restoring patellar mobility, restoring full extension, restoring flexion, and minimizing arthrogenic muscle inhibition.
Patients will be instructed on how to walk with a locked brace and how to climb stairs. Intervention efforts will involve swelling management and performing exercises designed to improve range of motion and strengthen key muscles.
A few exercises patients will perform include:
During the second phase of rehabilitation, patients will progress to riding a stationary bicycle, and add the following exercises:
The third phase of rehabilitation will focus on maintaining full extension, normalizing gait, safely improving strength, promoting proper movement patterns, and avoiding post exercise pain and swelling. The physical therapist will guide patients through the following exercises:
Patients will also use the following equipment:
The last few phases of rehabilitation will focus on helping the patient regain full range of motion so they can return to playing their sport. The patient will gradually progress from non-contact practice, to full practice, to full play. The physical therapist will test the patient’s abilities to perform certain exercises to determine when they are able to safely resume athletic activities.
Upon successfully completing pre- and post-surgery physical therapy for a meniscus injury, patients should be able to play their sport without any pain, swelling, or restrictions in range of motion.