Meniscal Tears

by Courtney Gittins

Meniscal tears commonly occur from twisting or turning very quickly and abruptly, usually with the foot planted. 

Factors Contributing to a Meniscal Tear

  • Aggressively twisting and pivoting the knee
  • Sports involving rapid deceleration 
  • Athletes who compete in high contact sports
  • Athletes who are frequently pivoting (ex. Tennis, Lacrosse, Basketball)
  • Age – more common as we get older

Treatment Options for a Torn Meniscus

Conservative Care

The non-surgical approach can involve rest, ice, compression, and elevation. Rest means avoiding activities that aggravate knee pain and perhaps using crutches to take pressure off the knee. Icing as directed by either your physician or physical therapist. Wearing a compression sleeve or brace will be helpful as well as elevating the injured leg whenever lying down. Doctors may also suggest taking over the counter anti-inflammatory medication if you are able to do so.

Surgical Options for a Meniscal Tear

Certain tears where the blood supply is the richest can often times heal or be surgically repaired (meniscal repair). A meniscus repair is very common with an ACL reconstruction. When a tear results in an area of the meniscus with minimal or absent blood supply, these tears are often treated by performing a partial meniscectomy (trimming away the damaged tissue).

Rehabilitation following a Meniscal Tear

Physical Therapy(PT) is a crucial part to surgical recovery. When a partial meniscectomy is performed the rehab is dictated by the pain levels the patient experiences. The patient typically begins with closed kinetic chain exercises (an exercise with the foot in a steady position with the foot in contact with the ground or base of machine). The typical rehab for the partial meniscectomy usually takes between 4-6 weeks.

For a full meniscus repair, the rehab is dictated by the surgeon. The conservative approach for full repair rehab begins with either toe touch or up to 50% body weight bearing with crutches for the first 6 weeks. The more aggressive approach allows the patient full weight bearing immediately post-op. During the initial 6 weeks of therapy for either approach, range of motion, quad control, and proximal muscle strengthening are the focus. The surgeon determines which approach is used in PT.

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