Meniscus Recovery Guide

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Guide to Torn Meniscus Recovery - Baptist Blog

So you zigged when you should have zagged, and now you’re dealing with a torn meniscus. You’re not alone. A torn meniscus is one of the most common knee injuries and only the most severe cases require surgery.

What’s a meniscus?

Our knee has two menisci. These c-shaped rubbery cartilage provide a cushion between the femur and the tibia. Sudden, or acute, meniscus injuries can be caused by a sudden change of direction or the knee otherwise twisting while the foot is firmly planted. As we age, a degenerative meniscus tear occurs gradually, with the meniscus losing resiliency, breaking off and leaving frayed edges.

Meniscus tears are categorized into three grades. Grade 1 and 2 tears include small or partial meniscus tears and aren’t considered serious. A grade 3 tear will typically require arthroscopic surgery.

Meniscus Tear Recovery Timeline

Nonsurgical Meniscus Recovery Milestones

In nonsurgical cases — small or partial tears — pain and swelling should subside within a few days, with recovery taking up to six weeks. Typical recovery milestones include:

Week 1

  • Use crutches to avoid bearing more than half the body weight on the injured leg
  • Achieve up to 90% passive range of motion

Week 2

  • Eliminate swelling
  • Achieve a full range of motion

Week 3

  • Ensure the full range of motion
  • Regain full strength and ability to perform full squat
  • Return to normal exercise or level of activity

Weeks 4-5

  • Achieve full duration of normal exercise or activity

Post-Op Meniscus Tear Recovery Milestones

Meniscus recovery timelines for grade 3 tears and other surgical repairs can be as long as four months.

Week 1

  • Use crutches to avoid bearing more than half the body weight on the surgical leg
  • Use hinged knee brace
  • Achieve up to 70% passive range of motion

Week 2-4

  • Continue use of crutches, hinged knee brace and bearing less than half the body weight
  • Achieve up to 90% passive range of motion

Weeks 4-6

  • Gradually decrease dependence on brace and crutches
  • Use stationary bike at low pace and resistance
  • Achieve up to 120% passive range of motion

Weeks 6-8

  • Walk without noticeable limp
  • Achieve up to 135% passive range of motion

Weeks 8-12

  • Add lateral training exercises with no resistance
  • Achieve a full range of motion

Weeks 12-16

  • Introduce resistance to lateral training
  • Resume normal low-impact activities

Acute meniscus tears will rarely leave any doubt that you need immediate medical attention. Follow the advice your primary care provider, surgeon and physical therapy team to get you and your knee back on the straight and narrow. Want to learn more? Read more about meniscus tears.