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Knee Bone or Joint Injury

Torn Meniscus Recovery Time and Treatment

Minute Read


Posted 1 year ago


Last updated: 29/11/2022


by James McCormack

Physical Therapy for Meniscus Tears

Photo of knee meniscus assessment

Physical therapy is a very effective treatment for meniscus tears. An assessment with a physical therapist will ensure you have the correct diagnosis, and if physical therapy is the best and only treatment that you require. An assessment with a physical therapist will enable them to tailor a rehabilitation programme that is appropriate for you and your injury.

Two important parts of rehabilitation are what you need to do, and what you should avoid or reduce. For example with a meniscus tear, an effective exercise would be to work the quadriceps muscles, however, it is important not to do deep flexion of the knee in the acute and painful stages. Therefore selecting an exercise such as a squat would be inappropriate and detrimental to the progress of the individual. While it is a good exercise for the quadriceps muscles it may take the individual into deep flexion which may cause symptoms to worsen or persist for longer.

Related Article: Meniscus Tear Exercises.

Good Elements For Recovery

  • Strengthening the muscles around the knee: quadriceps, hamstrings, adductors, calf, and glutes.
  • Relaxing the muscles around the knee with stretches, massage or foam rolling.
  • Use ice or anti-inflammatories if there is swelling or high pain.
  • Relative rest with gentle regular movement of the joint.
  • Using a brace can offload the meniscus to give it a better chance to recover.

Elements to Avoid for Recovery

  • Deep knee flexion, bending the knee fully can compress the meniscus
  • Rotation of the knee joint, and sudden twists of turns can irritate the meniscus.
  • Impact exercises, running, jumping or skipping.
  • Rest from aggravating activities and reduce exercise that is high intensity of might cause irritation.

With more complex or larger meniscus injuries such as a bucket handle meniscus tear, physical therapy may be less effective as the only treatment. Additional interventions may be necessary under the guidance of a sports doctor or orthopaedic consultant. These might include medication, corticosteroid injections, surgery to remove part of the meniscus or surgery to repair the meniscus. The decision of which treatment options to take will be based on the size and location of the tear, the health of the knee and the individual and of course ultimately the patient’s preference.

Diagram of different meniscus tear types

Torn meniscus recovery time

Typical recovery time without surgery of a torn meniscus injury is 6-8 weeks, with good physical therapy rehab and an appropriate reduction of activity.

Conservative management is the best treatment for meniscus injuries without the symptoms of locking, significant instability or giving way.

Torn Meniscus Surgery Recovery Time

Surgery for a torn meniscus can be to remove the damaged portion, known as a meniscectomy, or to repair it. A meniscectomy is generally done when the tear is complex, large and in an area of the meniscus with poor blood supply. Typical recovery time with good physical therapy post-operatively will be 3-6 weeks.

For a meniscus repair, the tissue that is damaged must have the potential to heal, therefore it must be located where there is good blood supply, for the surgery to have a chance of success. Recovery time from this type of surgery is much longer than for meniscectomy, ranging from 3-6 months.

Long-Term Problems After Meniscus Surgery

The function of the meniscus is to provide stability, cushioning and lubrication of the joint. Therefore, common side effects of surgery for meniscus tear are increased instability of the joint and an increase of load through the cartilage of the bone surfaces, for the tibia and femur, and poorer lubrication of the joint. This contributes to a greater risk of early-onset arthritis of the knee joint.


Physiotherapy with James McCormack

This is not medical advice. We recommend a consultation with a medical professional such as James McCormack. He offers Online Physiotherapy Appointments for £45.

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