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Best Exercises for a Torn Meniscus

by Patty Weasler, RN February 21, 2020 0 Comments

Balancing on Balance board

After you have recovered from a torn meniscus your doctor or physical therapist may recommend a rehab program for your knee. The goal of rehabilitation meniscus tear exercises after is to stabilize the knee joint by strengthening surrounding muscles, regaining range of motion, and improving flexibility. The strengthening and increased flexibility will also help prevent further knee injury. Most exercise routines will focus on the quadriceps, hamstrings, calf, and hip.

An exercise program can be done during a physical therapy session or in your own home. The end results should be improved healing time and getting back to doing the activities you enjoy. Read on to learn about different exercises you can do to help stabilize your torn meniscus.

Strengthening and Range of Motion Exercises

After you have recovered from the acute phase of a meniscus injury and have your doctor’s approval try these home exercises to strengthen your muscles and improve your range of motion.

Quad Sets

The quad sets strengthening exercise returns control to the quadriceps muscle. Start by laying flat on your back on the floor or bed. With your legs straight out in front of you, tighten your quadriceps muscle. The back of your knee should push down into the floor or bed and the leg will straighten. Ideally, the foot should lift slightly off of the table. The knee goes into slight hyperextension.

Hold this position for a few seconds and then relax your leg.

Straight Leg Raises

To perform straight leg raises begin by sitting on a bed or the floor with your legs straight out in front of you. Keep the affected leg straight and bend the other knee with your foot flat on the surface. Tighten the thigh muscles of the straight leg by pushing the back of the knee into the surface. Slowly, lift the leg six to eight inches off of the surface and then return it back down. Relax the thigh muscle once it has returned to the surface.

Do not let the knee bend during this exercise.

Standing Heel Raises

This exercise is to strengthen the lower leg calf muscles. Stand on a flat surface with feet shoulder-width apart. Keep feet straight, do not have your toes inward or outward. For balance, hold onto a table or wall. Then lift up off of your heels off of the ground placing your weight on the balls of your feet. Slowly, return your heels to the ground.

Hold this exercise for two to three seconds. Perform three sets of 10 repetitions.

Hamstring Curls

To exercise the hamstrings, the muscles on the back of the thigh, lay face down on a bed or ground. Bend your knee and bring your foot up towards your buttock. Slowly, lower your foot back down to the surface. Home exercises like this one are meant to be done slowly and methodically to get the greatest benefit.

Shallow Standing Knee Bends

To perform shallow standing knee bends start with your feet shoulder-width apart, toes facing straight, and place your hands on your buttock. Tighten your buttock and slowly bend your knees. Hold for five seconds and return to the standing position. You should feel this in your quadriceps and glutes.

Do not bend your knees too far, deep squats are not recommended with a torn meniscus.

Heel Dig Bridging

Start off by laying on the floor on your back with knees bent, feet flat on the ground about halfway to your buttock. Push your heels into the ground, lifting your toes off of the ground. Raise your hips off of the ground to form a straight line between your knees to your shoulders. Lower your hips back onto the ground and repeat the movement.

Side Planks

Start off by laying on the ground on your right side. Rest your upper body on your right elbow and bend your knees at a 45-degree angle with your legs stacked on top of each other. Lift your pelvis up, ensuring that your abdomen is forward. The goal is to have a straight line between your knees and your ear.

Hold this position for one minute. To increase the difficulty straighten your legs. Repeat on the left side.

Passive Knee Extension

The passive knee extension is done to help stretch your leg and improve the range of motion to a full extension if you are unable to do so. To perform this stretch start by laying down on the floor or couch. Place the injured leg on an object to slightly elevate your leg. Bend the other knee and place the foot flat on a surface. Relax your straight leg and let the leg and knee stretch downwards to the floor.

This stretch can be done for up to 10 minutes, multiple times a day.

Balance Exercises

Your meniscus is one of the main shock-absorbers in the knee. When you have a meniscus tear your knee can feel like it’ll give out or isn’t stable. When this happens it’s time to work on your proprioception. Proprioception is your body’s awareness of itself and it’s relationship to your surroundings. If you have been immobile for a while when you regain the ability to move around you may have a hard time managing your movements.

Grab a balance trainer to do balance exercises. A balance disc or pad is a simple at-home tool you can use on a daily basis. Hold onto a wall or stable object for safety. The balance trainer will force your body to react and respond to any slight movement. This will strengthen your legs and core, ultimately improving your knee stability.

How Often Should You Exercise

Exercise after a meniscal injury will help you develop muscle strength and regain range of motion in your knee. Once you have been cleared by your doctor, you should be moving your leg muscles every day to prevent excess swelling and muscle loss.

A physical therapist or sports medicine physician will give you specific exercises based on the type of tear and if you have had knee surgery. Physical therapy will help develop a plan with you covering exactly how often you should exercise and what to look out for as your knee heals.

Exercises to Avoid

Not every exercise is safe after a torn meniscus. The knee is unstable after the tear and putting extra pressure on it can cause further damage.

You should avoid exercises that involve:

  • Twisting
  • Deep squatting
  • Pivoting

*If any exercise is causing pain or instability stop and talk to your doctor or physical therapist right away.

Precautions with a Torn Meniscus

After a meniscus tear, you will need to start an exercise program to strengthen your leg muscles which will support your knee as the meniscus heals. Once your doctor clears you for exercise working on a leg strengthening and stretching program will help you get back to all the activities you enjoy. Start slowly with the exercises we covered and consult with a physical therapist to ensure you are keeping your knee and body safe.




Patty Weasler, RN
Patty Weasler, RN

Patty Weasler is a freelance health writer and nurse. She is certified in critical care nursing and has been practicing for over 10 years. Patty lives in Milwaukee, WI with her husband and three children. She enjoys spending her time with family and educating people about their health.

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