Lateral Meniscus Rehabilitation

Lateral Meniscus Rehabilitation

An example of a lateral meniscus tear rehabilitation programs for patients who have had a complete or partial meniscus removed, patients who have had a cartilage meniscus repair and those who have not had surgery but are attempting conservative treatment.

We recommend seeking professional advice before attempting any self-rehab. 

1. For Partial or Complete Meniscectomy 

(athletes who have had part or all of the cartilage meniscus taken out)

Phase 1 (0-10 days)

  • Wear a compressive brace or support to protect and help reduce the swelling.
  • Range of motion exercises as pain will allow (bending and straightening your knee as much as pain will allow).
  • Quadriceps strengthening - start with static contractions and then straight leg raises.
  • Cycling if pain will allow.
  • Use crutches, partial weight bearing but move as quickly as you can to full weight bearing.

Phase 2 (10-21 days)

  • Use a compressive brace or support if needed.
  • Range of motion exercises - you should be up to full range of motion by now.
  • Continue to build on the straight leg raises perhaps introducing leg weights to make it more difficult.
  • Start to perform more advanced strengthening exercises such as squats.
  • When the wound has healed you can swim.
  • Cycling - try do 20 minutes a day of aerobic exercise whether it is cycling or swimming - it will make you feel better.

Phase 3 (week 3 onwards)

  • Build on what has been achieved so far. Increase weights, swimming, and cycling.
  • Do not overdo the rehabilitation and if the athlete is struggling or in a lot of pain then they should stop and seek medical advice.
  • Do not get downhearted. Stay focused and remember you cannot stay injured forever. Try to do regular aerobic exercise even if it is swimming.

2. For a Meniscal Repair

(athletes who have had a repair of the cartilage)

Phase 1 ( 0-21 days)

  • Wear a knee brace allowing range of movement from 30 to 80 degrees.
  • Range of motion exercises should be done passively (someone else moves the limb for you) while in the brace.
  • Exercises can be done in the brace very lightly. You should not go to the maximum effort. Straight leg raises(bent at 30 degrees) - lift, hold for 10 seconds, down, rest for three seconds, repeat 10 times, do 3 to 5 sets.
  • Use electrical stimulation to contract muscles.
  • Crutches (Non-weight bearing)

Phase 2 (3-6 weeks)

  • Increase the range of movement allowed by the brace in flexion and extension (bending and straightening) by 10 degrees each week.
  • Range of motion exercises follows the movement allowed by the brace until at 6 weeks you have 0 degrees (straight) to 120 degrees (bent).
  • Exercises - straight leg raises build on what you did before using a weight if possible.
  • After 6 weeks you can do leg extensions and leg curls from 90 to 30 degrees.
  • Crutches - start this phase partial weight bearing and progress to full weight bearing by the 10th week you are full weight bearing.

Phase 3 (7 weeks onwards)

  • Continue to build on all exercises. By now you should be able to do a full range of motion exercises and only use a brace if it is needed.
  • The athlete should be able to swim and cycle.

A few final points

  • Continue to train the quadriceps and hamstring muscles long after a return to sports activity. It is important these muscles are very strong to support the knee.
  • Sometimes after complete removal of the meniscus, a new weaker tissue may grow in its' place. This new tissue can tear giving the same symptoms as before.
  • People who had complete removal of the meniscus can (after many years) suffer degeneration or wear and tear at the ends of the bones.

3. Conservative Treatment - No Surgery

If surgery is not undertaken, a rehabilitation programme should be used to increase the movement and strength in the knee. In many cases (depending on the location and extent of the tear), a rehab programme can be very effective.

  • Use R.I.C.E to reduce bleeding and swelling.
  • Rest for a couple of days, or until walking is not painful.
  • Start gentle mobility exercises and stretches to regain full knee range of motion.
  • Once pain-free, start strengthening exercises for the thigh and calf muscles.
  • Proprioception exercises are also recommended to increase balance and the sense of joint positioning. A wobble board is a fantastic product for this.

This article has been written with reference to the bibliography.