Meniscus tear treatment plan

Meniscus tears treatment plan

The Exakt Health app contains a treatment plan for meniscus tears. Learn how it works.

Research-based treatment plan

Research shows that most meniscus tears can fully recover by following a graded strength training program.

You’ll find a lot of information on the internet about what exercises to do and how to do them. But how do you know which is best for you? What exercises should you do, how many repetitions, and how often?

The Exakt Health app provides these answers

  • The app guides you safely from when you first injure your knee to when you fully return to sport.
  • The meniscus tear treatment plan provides evidence-based exercises with clear guidance on reps, sets, and frequency.
  • The app adapts the program based on your feedback and specific needs.
  • It implements a walk/run program for safely returning to running.
  • It also includes a maintenance program to prevent re-injury.
The Meniscus tears treatment plan in the Exakt Health app provides you with daily workouts and information that will help speed up your recovery.
The meniscus tears injury overview screen teaches you about your injury.

The app teaches you about your meniscus injury

You can plan your recovery and avoid re-injury much better by knowing what caused your meniscus tear, how it heals, and when to seek medical attention.

Anatomy of the knee showing the medial and lateral menisciYou have two menisci in your knee, the medial (inner knee) meniscus, and the lateral (outer knee) meniscus. These c-shaped cartilage discs act like miniature shock absorbers.
 
They protect your knee joint when walking and running and increase the joint surfaces’ congruency, allowing the bones to “sit” and fit better on top of each other.
 
Usually, a meniscus tear happens when your body twists over your planted foot. It can also occur during deep squatting-type movements, but sometimes a subtle twist can cause it, such as a miss-step while running or walking. A meniscus injury most commonly involves the medial meniscus.
The symptoms you experience can vary depending on your type of tear.
 
For minor tears:
  • You may not notice when you tear it. For example, you miss-step and feel a twinge but then nothing further, only to sense your knee is a bit swollen and sore later that day.
  • You may not have much swelling and only be aware of some puffiness in the area, or your joint may feel a little stiff.
  • Your range of motion is usually full, with only the last 10 to 20 degrees of full extension (straightening) or flexion (bending) of your knee causing you pain.
  • Twisting on your legs with your feet planted in the ground may be painful.
  • You can usually walk with a near-normal gait pattern, but walking on uneven ground may cause pain.
  • Kneeling may hurt.
For severe tears:
  • It can be very sore if you sustain a large tear, and you will likely have to stop your activity and rest your leg.
  • Your knee will become very swollen.
  • You’ll have a very restricted range of motion, and you likely won’t be able to straighten and bend your knee completely.
  • Putting weight on the sore leg when walking will be painful and difficult.
  • You might experience clicking inside the knee joint, and it may lock from time to time.
Most minor to moderate meniscus tears can be successfully treated at home using a conservative exercise-based treatment plan as outlined in the app.
 

Consider seeing a medical practitioner if you have any concerns about your injury, particularly if:

  • Your knee feels unstable or gives way when you stand or walk – indicating knee ligament involvement which needs further investigation.
  • Your knee locks from time to time, indicating a bucket handle meniscus tear that may require surgical repair.
  • You’re not able to straighten your knee fully after 3 or 4 weeks of gentle exercise.
  • You have lots of swelling and bruising with a limited range of motion.
  • Any part of your leg, including your thigh, calf, or foot, is extremely swollen, red, hot to touch, or throbs with pain—it signals a blood clot and needs investigation as soon as possible.
  • You have sharp pain at night that keeps you awake or interrupts your sleep.
  • You feel pins and needles or tingling in your leg, suggesting a nerve injury. Our treatment plan may not be ideal for you if this is the case.
  • Your symptoms are getting worse.
  • Your injury is not healing as expected (see the approximate healing times below).

There are 2 main reasons why you may tear a meniscus: 

  • Trauma: A sudden strong force that usually involves a rotation movement of the knee. For example, you turn around on a planted foot while playing football. Or miss-step while running, resulting in a quick twist of your knee. 
  • Wear and tear: The menisci lose some of their strength with age, meaning that simple activities like picking something up off the ground or walking uphill can sometimes injure them. Although this may sound alarming, research tells us that these types of tears respond very well to an exercise-based treatment plan and usually do not require surgery.

Treatment

Most minor and moderate meniscus tears can recover with a conservative treatment plan consisting of the following steps:
 
  • First, allow the acute injury to settle down by following the PRICE regime.
  • Then, do gentle range of motion and muscle activation exercises.
  • As you recover, progressively strengthen the muscles that control and help to stabilize the knee joint.
  • Include exercises for your core and hip muscles, as well as balance and proprioception tasks to improve your general leg control and decrease the load on your knee.
  • Once you have optimal strength and control, you can ease back into your sports.
The app’s treatment plan guides you through this process smoothly.
 

Healing time

The average recovery times are:
 
  • Minor meniscus tears: 4 to 6 weeks
  • Moderate tears: 6 to 12 weeks
  • More severe tears that don’t require surgery: 12 to 24 weeks

Prevention

  • Doing strength training twice a week can help protect your menisci from injury. Regular strengthening keeps your muscles strong and improves your leg and knee control, reducing the forces passing through the joints.
  • Adding balance exercises to your routine helps you develop and maintain better movement control, which decreases your risk of making sudden and awkward movements and straining your knee.

The meniscus tear treatment plan consists of 6 stages

Workout intensities must increase throughout your recovery but should align with your healing process. The app ensures that you progress correctly, by setting clear targets for you at each of the 6 stages. It helps you improve incrementally and gradually regain your full strength while you heal.

Knee specific exercises

The main aim during this stage is to allow your injury to settle and slowly regain the range of motion in your knee. In addition, the app includes gentle activation exercises for the thigh muscles (quads) as they can also help stabilize your knee.

Core and leg strength

Having strong core and leg muscles can help reduce the strain on your knee. During this stage, the app will give you exercises that strengthen all the crucial areas in positions that minimize the impact on your knee.

Tips and advice

The app also offers recommendations about optimizing your recovery and maintaining your fitness—for example, giving you cross-training suggestions and advice on how and when to use ice.

Activities to avoid

  • Walking long distances
  • Deep squatting/kneeling
  • Twisting around with planted feet
  • Hopping or jumping
  • Running

When to progress

You can move on to the next stage if:

  1. At least 7 days have passed since you first injured your knee,
  2. and you walk short distances around the house at a slow pace without an increase in pain or discomfort and with a relatively normal gait pattern,
  3. and you can comfortably bend your knee beyond 90 degrees of flexion.

Knee and leg strength

Now you can move on to more functional exercises. The app will slowly introduce exercises that work more than one muscle group and body area at a time while still keeping the load on the knee relatively low.

Core and balance

Exercises that challenge your balance can help you develop your leg control brilliantly. The app helps by suggesting core exercises that require the muscles in and around the knee to work more.

Activities to avoid

  • Limit your walking to what you can do pain-free
  • Deep squatting/kneeling
  • Twisting around with planted feet
  • Hopping or jumping
  • Running

When to progress

You can move on to the next stage if:

  1. You can walk for 30 minutes at a slow pace without pain or discomfort,
  2. and you have successfully completed the strength and control workouts set by the app.

Knee and leg strength

You build the strength and control needed for a safe return to light running activities during this stage. From the outset of this stage, the app will slowly progress you to more dynamic exercises, through your full range of movement and with heavier loads.

Core and balance

You will continue working on your core and balance.

Activities to avoid

  • Deep squatting or kneeling
  • Jumping or hopping
  • Running

When to progress

You can proceed to the next stage when:

  1. You can walk at a brisk pace for 30 minutes,
  2. and do the assigned strength exercises without an increase in pain.

Run/walk program

You’re now ready to start a return to running program. The safest way to do this is through a program that alternates short slow jogging intervals with walking.

The walk/run program in the app includes warm-up and cool-down exercises, as well as advice on knowing if you’re ready to proceed to the next level or when it’s best to repeat sessions.

Strength and control

Your strength workouts will continue, but they will reduce in frequency as your running increases. Doing this ensures your knee can fully recover between training sessions.

Activities to avoid

Avoid high-intensity running such as fast running or hill sessions.

When to progress

You can progress to the next stage when you can jog 20 minutes at a leisurely pace without increasing your symptoms.

The focus is now on regaining your previous running endurance. But, again, it’s best to do this slowly. The research suggests that you should not increase your running volume by more than 10% per week to avoid injury.

Strength and control

The strength workouts will maintain the strength you’ve built in the previous stages. Aim for strength training each muscle group twice per week.

Activities to avoid

Avoid high-intensity running like tempos, sprints, or hill sessions. Your knee will not have the capacity to take high-level loads yet. You first need to build a solid, easy running endurance foundation and go from there.

When to progress

You can progress to the next stage when you can run your normal weekly running volume at your regular easy running pace without pain.

You can now start to train with increasing speed and intensity. However, it would help to continue your weekly strength routine to support your running activities and reduce re-injury risk. The app provides maintenance strength training workouts to help you with this.

The meniscus tear treatment plan has 6 stages and the workouts increase in intensity as you grow stronger..
The Exact Health App contains treatment plans for common running injuries.

Recover faster. Now.

Download the App now and start the recovery with your tailored treatment plan. Adjusted to your specific needs.

Learn more about Meniscus Tears

References

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  5. Howell R, Kumar NS, Patel N, Tom J. Degenerative meniscus: Pathogenesis, diagnosis, and treatment options. World J Orthop. 2014;5(5):597-602. Published 2014 Nov 18. doi:10.5312/wjo.v5.i5.597
  6. Beaufils P, Pujol N. Management of traumatic meniscal tear and degenerative meniscal lesions. Save the meniscus. Orthop Traumatol Surg Res. 2017 Dec;103(8S):S237-S244. doi: 10.1016/j.otsr.2017.08.003. Epub 2017 Sep 2. PMID: 28873348.
  7. The Meniscus in Normal and Osteoarthritic Tissues: Facing the Structure Property Challenges and Current Treatment Trends Caroline A. Murphy, Atul K. Garg, Joana Silva-Correia, Rui L. Reis, Joaquim M. Oliveira, Maurice N. Collins. Annual Review of Biomedical Engineering 2019 21:1, 495-521
  8. Fukuta S, Kuge A, Korai F. Clinical significance of meniscal abnormalities on magnetic resonance imaging in an older population. Knee. 2009 Jun;16(3):187-90. doi: 10.1016/j.knee.2008.11.006. PMID: 19179080.
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