Can you stroll with a torn meniscus? How long after meniscus surgery can you stroll? The meniscus is a piece of gristle between the thigh bone and the shin bone within the knee joint that acts as a cushion. Your meniscus offers padding and stability to the knee as you stroll, run, and perform exercises. The Meniscus can be torn by movements such as twisting at the knee joint while the leg is bent. The traumatic action can cause mechanical symptoms such as getting stuck, clicking, or jamming if you continue to stroll or perform exercises.
A torn meniscus typically cannot heal by itself due to the limited blood supply in knee cartilage. For some patients, a tear does not generate enough trouble to cause severe pain and swelling. Others present with knee pain on the inner side of the knee that is severe enough that they cannot stroll, run, crouch, or twist. These patients often require surgery that involves trimming the torn portion of the cartilage in order to alleviate knee pain. Surgery does not repair the tear itself. Continuing to stroll could potentially worsen the meniscus tear in some instances. Ceasing to stroll will decrease the strength of leg muscles, which may increase the difficulty of recovery.
1. Meniscal Tear Basics – What are the symptoms and causes?
How do you tear your meniscus? A torn meniscus is a very common injury in sports that is caused by sudden twisting or other movements in the joint. Older adults generally have an increased risk of sustaining knee injuries such as a torn meniscus due to degenerative tears that occur as part of the natural wear and tear of knee cartilage as people age. Generally speaking, a torn meniscus is more prevalent in people over 35. Younger individuals have a lower likelihood of experiencing a torn meniscus because their meniscus is relatively tough and flexible.
A meniscus is a disk-shaped piece of gristle that acts as a cushion inside the knee joint. You might have heard doctors or patients discussing a torn cartilage, which is essentially another term for a torn meniscus. Running, crouching, and contact sports are more likely to cause a torn meniscus due to the high impact on the knee and the increased potential for forceful twisting or rotation of the joint.
Types of meniscus tears can be classified as degenerative tears or traumatic tears. In degenerative tears, degenerative meniscal lesions are commonly observed as an early indication of osteoarthritis in patients over the age of 35. Traumatic tears are longitudinal vertical tears, particularly in the red-red and red-white zones, which require repair or non-removal. Types of Meniscus Tears can also be summarized into 6 common types.
Can a meniscus tear heal on its own? As depicted in the following illustration, red and red-white zones are classified based on the amount of meniscal blood supply.
The meniscus crimson region receives ample blood supply thus a ruptured meniscus in this region might mend without surgical intervention, whereas the damage occurring in the white-white region usually necessitates surgery for mending.
How to determine if you have a torn meniscus? If the patient has experienced a torn meniscus, the knee will become swollen and painful initially and they may encounter difficulty in straightening and bending the leg, as well as feeling a locking or sticking sensation in the knee. The symptoms of torn knee cartilage may include:
- Experience discomfort in the knee generally on one side of the patient’s knee
- Encounter difficulty in straightening and bending the leg because fragments of a torn meniscus may move into the joint space
- The knee is stuck and cannot be bent (knee joint locking with limited range of motion)
- Inflammation and rigidity in the injured knee
- Injured Knee remains swollen for more than 12 hours
You can feel the pain when the joint is in use, but the pain subsides when there is no load.
2. Will Walking on a Torn Meniscus Make It Worse?
Walking can help maintain proper lubrication of your knee cartilage with synovial fluid, which plays a crucial role in reducing friction between the articular cartilage of synovial joints when you are walking or participating in exercises. As mentioned previously, the meniscus is a piece of cartilage that acts as a shock absorber between your thighbone and shinbone. Research indicates that cartilage contains fluid, constituting 75% of the cartilage tissue, which aids in supporting weight from our body and lubricating joint surfaces.
According to a study on cartilage deflation conducted by a group at Columbia in 1995, led by Gerard Ateshian, it has been demonstrated that synovial fluid gradually leaks out of the porous cartilage in your knee after prolonged periods of sitting or standing. The loss of synovial fluid means less fluid available for lubricating our knee cartilage, which can result in a gradual reduction in cartilage thickness and increased friction on cartilage surfaces, ultimately leading to degenerative tears and a higher likelihood of traumatic tears in the meniscus. This is also the reason why your knees may feel stiff and sore after prolonged sitting.
The significant findings from this study revealed that continuous knee movement can prevent the process of cartilage deflation, and the interstitial pressure created by walking or exercising can facilitate the reabsorption of leaked synovial fluid when we are not in motion. Therefore, maintaining an active lifestyle by walking short distances on a daily basis after experiencing a torn meniscus is an excellent way to keep your knee cartilage properly lubricated.
Walking on a ripped cartilage in the knee will not exacerbate the condition. By commencing with a small duration of daily walking in addition to physical therapy, you can accelerate the healing process and regain muscle control. Walking is an exceptional method for loosening the knee joint, and your therapist can also assess your gait to identify any factors that may contribute to a torn cartilage.
3. A Diagnosis of Torn Cartilage Does Not Necessarily Require Surgery
In most cases, the injury can heal within a few months and surgery may not be necessary. You might be wondering when to see a doctor if you suspect a torn cartilage injury. If you experience joint locking, excessive swelling, severe pain during movement, and the inability to put weight on the knee, it is crucial to consult a doctor immediately.
Even significant tears identified through MRI scans may not always require surgery. The initial treatment for a torn cartilage should focus on reducing swelling, so your knee should be treated with physiotherapy first to see if symptoms such as swelling, pain, and joint locking can be alleviated over time.
One of the best indications that surgery may be necessary for a torn cartilage is if swelling and pain persist after two weeks of rehabilitation. If these symptoms return after rehab, it is likely that surgery will be recommended. However, it is important to note that surgery itself cannot guarantee protection against future injuries or ensure a complete recovery. Therefore, it is crucial to consult your doctor if swelling persists after rehab and take the time to thoroughly discuss your situation.
Please remember that a diagnosis of a torn cartilage does not automatically mean surgery is needed. The decision for surgery will depend on factors such as the location and pattern of the tear, as well as whether swelling and pain can be relieved through rehabilitation. You can also take a meniscus tear quiz (link: https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/te7366) to help you make an informed decision alongside your doctor’s recommendation.
4. Exercises to Avoid with a Torn Cartilage
Torn cartilages commonly occur in contact sports like football, basketball, and volleyball. Doctors often caution patients with torn cartilages that certain exercises can exert excessive pressure on the knees. Any activities that cause pain or mechanical symptoms such as catching, clicking, or locking in the knees should be immediately discontinued. Patients should minimize putting weight on their knees as much as possible.
Other than contact sports, the following physical activities are more likely to result in re-injury, which should also be avoided for patients with a meniscus tear:
- Squatting deeply
- Rotating or turning sharply
Rotating or twisting
Stepping forward with one leg
In order to minimize symptoms during exercise, please refrain from participating in any high-impact sports as discussed above or other activities that involve repetitive jumping, squatting, and twisting. Learning how to prevent a torn meniscus is also crucial for reducing the risk of accidental meniscus injury.
5. Meniscus Tear: Strengthening Exercises for Rehabilitation
Building strength in the muscles around the joint safeguards your knees from further harm by lessening the pressure on the knee and also supports the recovery process for a torn meniscus. For most types of meniscus tears, certain simple exercises can assist in maintaining the strength of the quadriceps and hamstrings, hip, and calf muscles. It is vital to ensure that these areas regain full functionality after an injury or surgical procedure. Before engaging in any rehabilitation exercises, even if you experience no pain, always consult with your doctor.
How long does it take for a torn meniscus to heal? According to Cleveland Clinic, following torn meniscus surgery, the initial recovery period can last up to 2 weeks, during which patients undergo various physical therapy sessions. The actual duration of recovery will depend on the patient’s condition and healing process. A patient’s physical therapy program after surgery can be divided into three primary phases:
- Gaining control of the leg muscles and transitioning away from crutches
- Restoring complete knee mobility and strength
- Returning to normal activities
In general, it is advisable to limit movement for up to 2 weeks after surgery to repair your meniscus. Sometimes, it may take weeks or months before you can resume your daily activities following surgery. After an uncomplicated meniscectomy or meniscus surgery, the typical timeframes for returning to activities can also be divided into 3 main phases:
- 2 weeks after meniscus surgery with the assistance of a knee brace – you can engage in simple weight-bearing exercises such as standing or walking, or immediately after surgery with a knee brace or crutches.
- 4 – 6 weeks after surgery (2 to 14 days for uncomplicated meniscectomy) – you can start walking without crutches and begin performing low-impact exercises based on your surgical outcome. Your knees will gradually regain their full range of motion during this period.
- 3 – 6 months (4 to 6 weeks for uncomplicated meniscectomy): you can start participating in exercises that you enjoy and return to sports.
Exercises for a meniscus tear during rehabilitation can also aid patients in regaining control of the muscles around their knees and resuming normal activities.
3 easy workouts are suggested for various stages of recuperation. Following specific forms of meniscus surgery. Individuals may initially be limited to remaining in bed.
When patients are reclining on the bed, the initial recommended activity is knee flexions, which can assist in preventing blood clots in the legs. Knee flexions are a straightforward exercise that can aid in promoting blood circulation after prolonged bed rest. The patient can raise one knee towards their chest and lower it back down, repeating this process ten times, and then repeat the same process for the other leg. It is advised to perform knee flexions at least once every hour.
When patients are sitting on the bed or a chair, the second suggested exercise is raising the heels and toes. Patients can remain seated with both feet planted on the floor in front of them and lift both heels, holding for 3 seconds. Repeat this sequence ten times, and then repeat the lifts by raising the toes of both feet.
The third recommended exercise is heel raises. The patient can stand up to enhance blood circulation around the knee joints after prolonged sitting. The instructions for heel raises are to hold onto a chair for balance. Gradually raise your heels, transferring your body weight to your tiptoes. Maintain this position for 5 seconds, then repeat ten times.
Walking is also highly recommended for improving blood circulation around the knee joints during torn meniscus recovery. During the initial stages of recovery, you can begin with a short daily walk and gradually increase the duration and pace to aid in the recovery of the muscles around the knee joints.
6. Pointers for Walking with a Torn Meniscus
Is it possible to walk with a torn meniscus? If you only experience mild discomfort in your knees after torn meniscus surgery, walking and other low-impact exercises will help expedite the recovery process. Engaging in exercise lubricates the joints and mobilizes joint fluid. Throughout the recovery period, you may experience pain, stiffness, and fatigue in your knees, but these symptoms will improve over time by maintaining an active lifestyle.
If you still encounter moderate to severe knee pain after torn meniscus surgery, limit your walking to a comfortable pace or try exercises that do not put significant pressure on the knees, such as swimming or cycling. If knee pain remains severe and prevents you from walking short distances, it is advisable to consult your doctor promptly for medical advice.
5 suggestions to assist individuals walking with a torn meniscus
- Select appropriate knee braces to aid in torn meniscus recovery:
Knee braces are one of the beneficial sports medical aids that can contribute to the recovery of a torn meniscus. The primary advantage of knee braces is that they enable patients to remain active during the recovery process. They ensure that less stress is placed on the joint, and additional stability is crucial for torn meniscus recovery.
Wearing knee braces for joint support can aid in the recovery from a torn meniscus by providing added stability and restricting twisting movements to prevent future injuries. Joint support knee braces for a torn meniscus can also prevent hyperextension in patients. They prevent the knees from extending beyond the safe range of motion, as hyperextension at the knee is one of the most common causes of a torn meniscus.
In addition, knee braces designed for joint support are equipped with unique springs that can provide assistance to the knee as a shock absorber and aid in bearing the weight of your body. The knee braces also offer extra support for the up-and-down motion involved in squatting and provide additional support to the injured knee.
A compression knee brace, on the other hand, is a different type of knee brace that applies pressure to the affected area in order to promote better circulation. Adequate blood supply is essential for speeding up recovery as it provides nutrition to the meniscus from the synovial fluid in your joint capsule. While the meniscus has limited blood supply, recent studies indicate that approximately 20% of the outer portion of the meniscus has its own blood supply. Wearing a compression knee brace can help reduce stiffness and soreness while accelerating recovery by increasing blood circulation.
Before engaging in walking or any rehabilitation exercises for a torn meniscus after surgery, it is recommended to warm up. Just like warming up your car in winter, lubricating the cylinders in the car engine with engine oil before driving prevents damage to the engine components and extends their lifespan. Similarly, starting exercise without warming up is risky for your knees as they may become stiff or sore after prolonged periods of sitting. Therefore, it is always advisable to perform warm-up exercises to mobilize the joint fluid and prevent potential injuries.
When selecting a walking surface, it is crucial to choose a soft one as your knees endure more impact on hard surfaces. Although walking is a safe exercise for patients with a torn meniscus and has lower impact compared to activities like running, each step can still create jarring effects on a hard surface. Therefore, it is recommended for patients to walk on softer surfaces such as a cinder track, asphalt, or natural trails as they are gentler on the joints, especially during the recovery process.
Take advantage of low-pain periods throughout the day to incorporate walking into your routine. Some patients may experience significant pain or stiffness in the evening, while others may have pain at different times of the day. If you notice that the pain is more prevalent during certain times, try to schedule your walks during those periods. This will allow you to enjoy your walks more and help you maintain an active lifestyle while staying consistent with your exercise regimen.
After exercising, it is beneficial to apply cold packs. In the early stages after tearing your meniscus, you may experience swelling or inflammation around the knees. Focusing on reducing the swelling and regaining muscle strength is important during this stage.
Hence after strolling or working out to recover the muscle strength, it is advisable to employ frigid compresses surrounding the knees to diminish bloating and irritation. Chilling can also alleviate agony and bloating if executed for a duration of 15 minutes subsequent to the physical activity.
The Key Message – Should I Stroll with a Ripped Meniscus?
A damaged meniscus can present a difficulty for strolling, however, it’s crucial to fortify your muscles in the anterior and posterior of the thigh, calf, and hip. While the majority of torn meniscus cases can’t heal because of the restricted blood supply in our knee cartilage, appropriate exercises can assist in reducing stiffness and inflammation. Our knee joints are primarily made up of cartilage and bone. Since cartilage lacks adequate blood supply to nourish it, joint fluid plays a vital role in cartilage nutrition. You may notice that your knees feel sore and stiff upon waking up in the morning. This is because movement is crucial for producing joint fluid to nourish your knee cartilage.
Therefore, walking or engaging in low-impact exercises is important for muscle development and maintaining functional joints during torn meniscus rehabilitation. Furthermore, certain weight-bearing exercises like walking can also aid in increasing blood circulation in your legs and knees. Research has demonstrated that gradually increasing the time you spend walking each day can yield benefits during torn meniscus recovery.
Lastly, here are 3 key points to facilitate torn meniscus recovery or knee injuries.
- Maintaining proper blood circulation around joints is vital for torn meniscus recovery.
There are numerous ways to enhance blood circulation in your knee joints, regardless of your activity level – even if you are still confined to bed during the early stage of recovery.
Walking, regardless of the distance, is the foremost recommendation for improving blood circulation, especially in joints. You can start with short indoor walks. Just a few minutes each day will contribute to enhancing your recovery progress.