Your knee is the largest joint in your body, and it’s made up of various components. From bones and cartilage to tendons and ligaments, there are many different parts of your knee that help it properly function. When one of those parts is injured, you can experience knee pain and stiffness that can make it hard to carry out your daily physical tasks.
Your menisci play an essential role in your knee function. If you’ve sustained a torn meniscus, it may be difficult to walk or stand without wincing in pain. There are a variety of treatment options that can help alleviate the symptoms, but your first course of action should be physical therapy.
We’re going to talk about the basics of a torn meniscus and how common the injury is. You’ll also learn about the benefits of seeking physical therapy for a torn meniscus and potential techniques that your physical therapist may recommend.
What is a torn meniscus?
Each of your knees has two menisci, which are pieces of cartilage that work as shock-absorbers between your tibia (shinbone) and your femur (thighbone). These rubbery discs function as cushions to stabilize the knee joint by evenly distributing your weight on the bones as you move.
A torn meniscus means that the cartilage of the disc has been torn, which can cause a variety of symptoms that can reduce your knee’s function and mobility.
Symptoms of a torn meniscus include:
- Reduce range of motion.
- Feeling like your knee is locking or catching during movement.
How do you sustain a torn meniscus?
A torn meniscus is usually the result of a sudden twisting movement while your feet are planted. Every year, there are more than 500,000 cases of meniscus tears in the United States. It’s often treated as a sports injury, because it’s especially common in athletes. In fact, a study showed that about 15.1% of knee injuries sustained by high school athletes are due to meniscus injuries.
People who play sports that involve quick pivoting and rotating are at risk of tearing the meniscus, including:
It can also be caused by heavy lifting or trauma.
Why you should seek physical therapy for a torn meniscus
Even though many meniscus tears can heal on their own, physical therapy treatments can help accelerate the process. The goal of physical therapy for a torn meniscus is to reduce the pain as well as work to restore the affected area’s strength and mobility.
Here are some benefits of treating a torn meniscus with physical therapy:
- Improved range of motion.
- Pain management.
- Increased strength of affected muscles.
- Improved function.
- Reduced risk of future injury or re-injury.
It’s important to note that severe meniscus tears can’t heal without surgery, though the symptoms may be reduced with the help of physical therapy.
How physical therapy can treat a torn meniscus
A physical therapist will do an assessment of your symptoms and mobility to determine which treatment will work best for the severity of your torn meniscus. For a torn meniscus, the treatment will center on targeted exercises and manual therapy. The goal of the treatments is to manage your pain as well as restore the overall function of the knee joint.
Your physical therapist will walk you through safe and effective exercises to strengthen the muscles surrounding the meniscus to increase stability and decrease the stress placed on the meniscus. Some common exercises they might recommend are hamstring curls and heel raises.
Stretches are also essential for treating meniscus tears because they increase your range of motion. Your physical therapist may instruct you to perform stretches such as a standing hamstring stretch or a straight leg raise.
When it comes to pain management from a torn meniscus, your therapist may use a manual therapy technique called joint mobilization. This involves them using their hands to move around the joint to find restrictive soft tissue that’s causing pain and stiffness. Then they can break it up to release the tension.
Back in Motion can provide physical therapy for your torn meniscus
When your knee pain and stiffness from a torn meniscus get to be too much, physical therapy can help move along the healing process. Physical therapy can help restore your knee’s function after a meniscus injury so that you can have the strength and range of motion needed to go throughout your day.
Don’t put off getting treatment. Contact us today to schedule your initial appointment.