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Treating Your Torn Meniscus with Physical Therapy

Treating Your Torn Meniscus with Physical Therapy

When you walk across the floor, the pressure you put on your knees is about 1.5 times your body weight. So, for a 200-pound man, that’s 300 pounds of pressure on his knee with every step. If you go up or down stairs, the pressure increases to 3-4 times your body weight.

The point is that your knees sustain tremendous pressure, so injuries to their shock absorbers are common, including a torn meniscus.

The meniscus is a rubbery cartilage in your knee that absorbs the shock of your thigh bone. A torn meniscus can occur when you twist or turn your knee during sports, exercise, or lifting something heavy. Anything that causes an imbalance of weight across your knee alters its function and can tear your meniscus.

A meniscus tear can also occur simply because of wear and tear on your knee over the years.

If you experience a torn meniscus, you’ll need treatment to get back to normal — it typically doesn’t resolve on its own. At Steven E. Nolan, MD, we start with conservative treatment options, including rest, ice, and wrapping the knee with an elastic bandage to provide stability.

If Dr. Nolan thinks more treatment is necessary, he moves to physical therapy, which often can help your meniscus heal, delaying or preventing surgery. Here’s how physical therapy treatment plays out for a torn meniscus.

How does the physical therapy process work?

The goal of physical therapy when treating a meniscus tear is to get back your range of motion, control, and strength. That process usually starts with exercises that focus on the range of motion of your knee, such as flexing and extending your knee.

You also do stretches that keep your leg muscles loose (they tend to tighten after an injury), along with basic exercises such as toe raises and straight leg raises. As healing progresses, you can do more advanced exercises, such as squats and more challenging stretches.

Your physical therapist may use various techniques to help you, including massaging the area, applying ice packs, using compression bandages to limit swelling, and incorporating neuromuscular electric stimulation to stimulate, contract, and strengthen your muscles.

You also do exercises at home to rebuild your strength. 

How long will physical therapy last?

The length of your treatment depends on your tear’s severity, age and condition, and how your body heals. You’ll likely participate in physical therapy for 4 to 6 weeks (this time frame includes you exercising independently at home). 

If Dr. Nolan determines you need surgery, physical therapy is essential to your recovery, restoring your ability to participate in an active life and sports. Depending on your surgery type, this recovery lasts from three weeks to three months.

If you need treatment for a torn meniscus, our team at Steven E. Nolan, MD, guides you and gives you the care you need. Call our office at 281-720-6909 or request an appointment with our online scheduler anytime.

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