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Recovering from Knee Surgery for Torn Meniscus

Updated on June 28, 2012

Torn Meniscus Knee Surgery Recovers Well

A torn meniscus can be very painful and require arthroscopic surgery to repair the the injury to the knee, however the rehabilitation can go very well with this type of knee operation if you follow the doctor and physical therapists orders. Tearing the meniscus is a common injury that often happens to individuals that are active playing sports and enjoying other rigorous activities. If the injury also includes a torn ligament such as an ACL or MCL than you will need to be prepared for a much slower path to recovery and will need to go through rehab at a much slower pace than a simple meniscus tear repair surgery.

I have had two meniscus tear surgery's due to football injuries and with an intense program of consistently icing and daily exercise utilizing the program set by my physical therapist and doctor, I was back to 100% very quickly and able to participate in intense work outs. The following were a few of the things I learned during the recovery process of my lateral meniscus surgery's for how to get through the rehabilitation phase quickly. Each person will be different but these are the activities and exercises that I felt allowed me to get back into good shape quickly.

Meniscus Physical Therapy Techniques

Knee Surgery Recovery Tools

Tips for Knee Surgery Rehab

There are countless exercises that will help you recover your knee and several procedures to use to get the swelling down and help you feel better in general. These are my personal favorites and tips I pass along to anyone I know that is going to have to go through a knee surgery.

Pre Knee Surgery

Before the surgery, try to remain active, while you may not be able to do a rigorous work out and certain leg exercises, it is important to keep your muscles working as after the surgery there will be downtime which will cause your muscles to weaken and loose strength at the time that you need a strong and fit body the most.

Post Knee Surgery

  • Ice and Elevation are critical. I used an iceman cold therapy system device as a way to keep a constant flow of cold water around the knee. The system comes with a bladder that you have wrapped around your knee and it can be unattached from the unit where the ice and water are held. This is critical as it is a terrible experience to have to undo bandages and ice bags frequently post surgery, simply plug the bladder into the machine turn it on and the water starts to flow cooling the knee and getting the inflamation down. Also get a nice set of wedge pillows so you can elevate your knee to the position that fits you best. Sometimes it feels better to be a little higher other times lower so it is nice to have a few sizes of pillows at your disposal.
  • Start to Move - After a few days with a meniscus tear surgery you should be able to start to walk and put weight on the leg with your crutches. I found it helpful as soon as I could move around to start to do so, make sure it is ok with your doctor, but I found this helped me get more of the inflammation down. Ice and elevate immediately after your short weight bearing walks.
  • One of my favorite things was to simply sit and move my kneecap around with my hands once most of the swelling had gone down. This helped free up the scar tissue and get the knee loose and ready to begin exercising.
  • I had good success riding a stationary bike without much bend required in my knee at the lowest level of resistance to start exercising again. After about 5 minutes you will feel your knee really starting to loosen up and able to slowly add more of a bend to your knee each day. Getting your range of motion back is important and a bike tended to this better for me versus using an elliptical running machine which I liked after a few weeks of therapy on the bike.

  • Once your scars are healed over from the little arthroscopic surgery incisions go to a swimming pool. Join the class with the old ladies doing water exercise and practices bending your legs in the water and working ion your range of motion. This is a great habit to get into if you are a bigger person and have knee problems the buoyancy in the water is great for helping reduce stress on your joints in the knees, ankles, and hips, and back and the exercise is still very good due to the resistance the water provides.
  • Work on the range of motion of your leg, lay on your stomach, place a towel around your ankle and slowly pull on the ends of the towel to bring your foot up as close to your rear end as possible. This will hurt at first and so go to the point of pain and then back off just a tad. Try and improve every day.
  • Once you are starting to get back in action you need to remember you are still weak and have to work hard on getting everything back in action. A balance board will show you where your weaknesses are the most. Work with your physical therapist to identify exercise that you can do that will help you work on your balance with the one leg and strengthen all of the little muscles in your leg and feet that may have been taking a rest due to the surgery. Just balancing on one leg and playing catch with a light medicine ball or basketball is a great way to get your balance and confidence back in your leg. When you can do these exercises without pain or wobbling then you are probably ready to try a light jog.

Always ice and elevate when recovering from a knee surgery. I used to ice and ice and then ice some more, 20 minutes on 20 minutes off for long periods of time. Get a small portable electric stimulation / massage machine and learn how to hook yourself up properly so that when you ice you can use the electric stim to help move your muscles and get the inflammation to go away faster. This is the best way to get the sweeling down and reduce the constant pain that can sometimes be present after a knee surgery for a torn meniscus so that you can be back to doing what you want to do.


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      Annie 13 months ago


      Great Advices, thank you!!!

      I am supposed to have surgery sometime soon, haven't schedule yet. The doctor explained it could take up to 3 months to recover, and get me back to work, and up to 6 months before I can do any workout or active sports. How long did you recover?