Tearing the meniscus is one of the most common knee injuries. It can happen to anyone, and the tear usually involves movement, a forceful twist, or rotation. Depending on the severity of the tear, the person will either need surgery, or he/she will be able to rehabilitate the injury naturally.
What Is The Meniscus?
The meniscus is probably the most important cushion you have in your knee. Sitting between the tibia and the femur (shin bone and thigh bone), the meniscus is a c-shaped disc of cartilage that can wear down over time. Each knee actually has two menisci (plural of meniscus), which help to balance your weight across the knee joint. If the menisci wear down too much, the person is more prone to tearing or developing arthritis.
What Causes The Tear?
Given that the knee isn’t a ball and socket joint like the shoulder or hip joints, it isn’t meant to rotate. The knee is a hinge joint and is only meant to bend or straighten. Forceful rotation such as aggressive pivoting in sports or kneeling, deep squatting, and heavy lifting can cause the meniscus to tear. The meniscus wears thin as we age, which also makes it easier to tear.
In the medical field, meniscus tears can be “stable” or “unstable,” meaning that you either need surgery or you don’t. Sometimes the tear is bearable and you only experience mild swelling and tenderness, while other tears can inhibit proper knee function. The tear can be acute and traumatic (a bucket or flap tear) or degenerative (radial) as a result of wear. If the meniscus tear is degenerative, the chance of natural rehabilitation without surgery is higher. Traumatic tears and flaps may make it difficult to bend your knee and surgery may be your only option for proper healing.
People have different methods for how they like to rehabilitate the knee. One thing, which is absolutely paramount, is the ability to strengthen the muscles around the injury. The best exercises to do are called isometrics. Neither the joint angle nor muscle length change during the contraction, i.e. meaning these are static positions as opposed to dynamic exercises that have a varied range of motion. A plank is a great example of an isometric exercise.
Immobilize and Exercise:
When you are trying to rehabilitate a bone, muscle, or ligament, it is best to immobilize the area as much as possible. This can accelerate the body’s natural healing process. For example, a minor fracture in the foot can naturally repair itself if continually placed in a walking cast for over a month. Similarly, the meniscus can heal if it is in a brace, wrapped, or immobilized in a way of your choosing. A great technique is to use kinesiology tape, which helps you engage the muscles in the lower and upper leg without stressing the meniscus.
Ice Ice Baby:
When you have a bone break or tear in the body, you need to ice the area as much as possible. Icing the knee, in this case, helps decrease inflammation in the joint, which helps the cartilage heal more efficiently.
Massage It Out:
Massaging the entire area around the knee can help increase blood flow throughout the joint. Healthy circulation is beneficial for quicker healing time. You should poke the back of knee and dig in there, to a tolerable extent, to massage away any tension. Another helpful massage is rubbing either side of the kneecap to improve circulation. When a spot is very tender, lightly massage it and feel out other areas that you can handle.
Videos For Learning:
The following videos are designed to inform you about meniscal tears and how you can rehab them without surgery.