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What Should I Expect from Meniscus Rehab?

By Amanda Barnhart
Updated May 17, 2024
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The meniscus is a disc that cushions the knee. It can tear as a result of twisting or turning the knee quickly with the foot in place. Healing from a meniscus tear may require home treatment, physical therapy, or surgery to repair or remove the disc. The most common things to expect from meniscus rehab are pain, swelling, and weakness in the knee.

Pain and swelling are the most common side effects to expect from meniscus rehab. Rest, ice, elevation, and compression can help relieve inflammation and pain. Patients with meniscus injuries should stay off their injured leg for at least a few days. Elevating the leg above the head and using ice packs for 15 to 20 minutes at a time can also help relieve swelling and numb pain. Compression with an elastic bandage keeps the knee stable and helps it heal with minimal swelling.

Doctors have most meniscus rehab patients perform exercises to strengthen the knee and improve flexibility once the injury has had a chance to heal. These exercises are often performed at home for minor meniscus injuries. Patients with more severe injuries may need to attend physical therapy sessions for several weeks to several months to make a full recovery. Physical therapy is usually necessary after meniscus surgery.

Wearing a brace or knee immobilizer is a common thing to expect from meniscus rehab following surgery. Some braces are hinged, while others hold the knee secure in an extended position. Most patients are able to walk with crutches in the first days following surgery. Weight can be placed on the injured leg as long as the knee is kept straight. Crutches are used for about a month while the meniscus heals.

After a month, most patients are able to stop using crutches. More movement is allowed in the knee, and they can walk while wearing the brace without having to keep the knee fully straight. More movement is allowed at this stage, and patients begin doing more strengthening and flexibility exercises at home and in physical therapy.

A healing period of three to four months total is common to expect from meniscus rehab when the meniscus has been surgically repaired or removed. Most patients do not need to use a brace after this time, but they may not be able to return to vigorous exercise or sports for several more months, depending on the extent of the injury and how well it has healed.

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