Best 5 Exercises after a Meniscus Tear

Meniscus injuries are one of the most common injuries seen at Surrey Physio. The meniscus is a C shaped piece of cartilage that sits in between your knee joint. It plays an important role in weight bearing by helping to distribute weight and reduce stress on the joint. We often describe it to patients as a ‘shock absorber for the knee’. A tear in the meniscus occurs when there is a sudden twist or turn of the knee or as a result of wear and tear over time.

At Surrey Physio the patients we examine often complain of symptom such as locking, popping, catching, buckling and pain along the joint line. Some tears can lead to mild synovitis, with swelling for several days after injury. Up to 80% of this injury is seen in men when comparing both genders and the most common presentation is something called a “degenerative meniscus tear”. This is a tear that has occurred as a result of years of use and wear on the knee joint, or as a result of a previous trauma to the knee.

In order to diagnose a meniscal tear, we need to conduct a case history along with a through clinical examination. However, in some cases an MRI may be necessary to provide a clear view as other knee injuries can have similar presentations. Tears can present in different sizes and shapes, including bucket handle tears, vertical and longitudinal tears to name a few.

The treatment of a meniscus tear depends on the severity and location and how active you are. For minor tears, conservative management may suffice; this may include rest, ice, compression elevation, physiotherapy and osteopathy. Pain can also be managed by anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen but be careful with these drugs due to side-effects on the tummy. For severe tears surgery may be required to repair or remove the damaged cartilage, and is more commonly performed in younger patients, and is generally not recommended for over 55s. At Surrey Physio, we use Ostenil Plus injections to provide a lubrication to the knee joint. This seems to help significantly, and patients report positive outcomes around 60% of the time with an Ostenil injection. The cost at time of writing is £200.00 for the injection (including the consultation). The most common surgery is an Arthroscopic partial meniscectomy, mostly indicated if the damaged part has poor blood supply. In some cases, the meniscus can be repaired using stitches or other techniques to reattach the torn edges.

Recovery from a meniscus tear can take several months, depending on the severity of the injury and type of treatment received. Physiotherapy is highly recommended to strengthen the knee and improve range of motion. At Surrey Physio we offer an extensive examination and treatment to help our patients get back to what they love doing. We use modalities such as exercise therapy, ultra sound and mobilizations. If you suspect you have a meniscus injury and would like advice please come and see us in clinic. In the meantime, we have developed 5 exercises that we think could help with this injury.

Exercises that we recommend to do following a meniscus tear (once the acute inflammatory phase has reduced):

Inner Range Quadriceps Lying

Lie flat on your back, and place a rolled-up towel under your knee. Tighten your thigh (quadriceps) muscle and lift your heel. You should be pressing your knee against the towel. As your leg straightens, it does not fully lift off the floor (only your foot lifts off the floor). Slowly return to the start position.

Try 12-14 reps with 3 sets twice daily

VMO Double leg inner range quadriceps with band

Stand up, and tie an exercise band around a table leg and the other end around the back of your knees. Your feet should be facing forwards, knees slightly bent, and make sure the band is taut. Keeping your hips knees and feet in line, straighten your legs against the resistance of the band, and slowly return to the starting position.

Try 12-14 reps with 3 sets twice daily

Inner Range VMO Long Sit with Band

Long sit on the floor. Place an exercise band around your foot. Holding the band firmly, contract your inner thigh muscle as you push the band away by straightening your leg fully allowing your heel to slide away from you. Hold, and let your foot slide back to the start position. This exercise will help to strengthen your quadricep (thigh) muscles.

Try 12-14 reps with 3 sets twice daily

Bridge with Goof Ball Exercise - Level 1

Lie flat on your back, with your knees bent. Place a goof ball or Pilates ball between your thighs. Squeeze your bottom muscles and lift your body upwards. Keep your arms by your side and use them to help you balance. Make sure you maintain good posture (do not over-arch your lower back) and contract the deep abdominal muscles by squeezing your tummy towards your spine. This exercise helps to strengthen the abdominal, lower back, gluteal and hamstring muscles.

Try 10 reps with 3 sets twice daily

How to strengthen your quadriceps with a band sitting

Sit down, bend your knee and put an exercise band around the sole of your foot. Straighten the leg against resistance. You will feel the front thigh (quadriceps) muscles working.

Try 10 reps with 3 sets twice daily

A meniscus injury is common in the sporting population and even more common as we age for the over 55s. It cases pain, swelling and difficulty bending or straightening the knee. Treatment may involve a conservative approach such as rest and physiotherapy for minor injuries. However invasive procedures such as an arthroscopy may be reserved for severe tears depending on your age (younger being more likely to be a good candidate for surgery). Recovery is dependent on the severity of the tear, and any underlying wear on the knee joint.

(Therapists: if you are reading this page, these videos are provided by Rehab My Patient – the best exercise prescription software for therapists to prescribe exercises Free trial available on their website. Patients: If you are a patient needing advice or a course of treatment, call Surrey Physio to book a telephone/video consultation with one of our expert physios or osteopaths, or book in face-to-face for an appointment. You can call us on 0208 685 6930 or book online by clicking the link at the top of the page).