What is Meniscus Therapy?

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  • Written By: Amanda Barnhart
  • Edited By: Michelle Arevalo
  • Last Modified Date: 24 December 2019
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Meniscus therapy is often necessary to help a patient heal and regain strength following a meniscus tear. The meniscus is a small wedge of cartilage in the knee that helps absorb the shock between the thigh and shinbones. The meniscus can tear suddenly from a sports injury or it can deteriorate over time, which is common in older people.

Some meniscus tears heal on their own with little medical intervention, though many require surgical treatment to repair the cartilage. After the initial healing period, many people need physical therapy to help them regain strength and mobility. Meniscus therapy after a cartilage tear or injury typically begins with gentle movements to improve range of motion. This usually progresses gradually to more difficult exercises for strengthening.

Doctors often give patients a list of exercises to do at home several times a day following a meniscus tear. The patient will be shown the exercises by a doctor, nurse, or therapist either in the hospital or at a doctor’s office, so that they know how to do them properly and avoid further injury. In many cases, patients who undergo surgery to repair or replace a meniscus may go through outpatient physical therapy for several weeks or months until normal knee function returns.


Physical rehabilitation usually begins in the hospital, immediately following surgery, to reduce the risk of the patient losing too much range of motion. A therapist or nurse will help the patient bend the knee slightly and may help them walk with crutches or a walker while the knee is still in a cast or brace. The knee is usually held straight while resting and is only bent when doing exercises. It may take several months for the knee to heal completely until full weight bearing and bending is possible.

Meniscus therapy exercises focus heavily on the hamstrings and quadriceps to help strengthen the knee and prepare it for heavier weight bearing and physical activities. Straight leg raises while laying down can help strengthen the thigh muscles. Knee bends while standing and lying down help get the knee used to weight and pressure after the cartilage heals. Weights or machines may be used for knee bends, and other leg strengthening exercises, during the last phase of therapy.

This therapy can continue for months and patients must return to sports and strenuous physical activities slowly, following a meniscus injury and surgery to reduce the risk of reinjuring the cartilage. In some cases, a tear may be so severe that a former athlete may not be able to return to sports, though gradual reintroduction of physical activity is usually possible. This is especially true if patients diligently follow the meniscus therapy and rehabilitation plan put in place by their doctors and therapists.



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