Exercises After Meniscus Surgery

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Ankle stretching can help after meniscus surgery.
Image Credit: Piyapong Thongcharoen/iStock/GettyImages

Meniscus surgery is usually completed using an arthroscopic surgical technique, requiring only a few small incisions around the knee joint. Exercises after meniscus surgery are usually begun as soon as the day after surgery to facilitate return to normal activity.

Adhering to your exercise program will aid in returning you to your previous level of function while reducing pain and disability. However, too much exercise, too soon, can increase your swelling and pain.

If exercise are painful, stop and apply ice to your knee for up to 15 minutes at a time, as advised by the Mayo Clinic. If your pain does not subside, call your doctor. For best results, perform exercises after meniscus surgery under the supervision of a physical therapist, as recommended by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

Read more: Can You Work Out With Knee Pain?

1. Ankle Pumps

Even though small incisions are made in the knee, you may experience a good deal of swelling around the knee or in the leg following surgery. Ankle pumps work to reduce that swelling, allowing your joints to move without the added resistance of excess fluid.

  1. Start with your knee straight, and your leg supported.
  2. Slowly bring your toes straight back and up towards your hips.
  3. Follow by pointing your toes straight out, away from your hips.
  4. This pumping action will use the muscle to return fluid from your leg back into the body.
  5. Perform this exercise 20 times, twice an hour while awake.

2. Quad Sets

After meniscus surgery, it is not uncommon for the quadriceps muscle to become weak, resulting in knee weakness and instability. Quad setting exercises begin to work the quadriceps in an easy, controlled manner to begin strengthening.

  1. Begin this exercise with your knee straight, but not locked, and your leg supported.
  2. Slowly contract the quadriceps muscle, on top of the thigh.
  3. You should see your kneecap move towards your hip, and your knee should fully extend.
  4. Hold the contraction for five seconds.
  5. Repeat this exercise 10 times, twice per day.

3. Straight Leg Raises

To fully target quadriceps strengthening, the hip joint must also be considered. The quadriceps crosses both the knee and the hip. Straight leg raises help to strengthen the quadriceps muscle by using hip flexion while keeping the knee extended.

  1. Start this exercise on your back, with your leg straight.
  2. Keeping your leg straight and toe pointed up, slowly raise your leg toward the ceiling.
  3. Raise your leg 12 to 18 inches off the ground, and hold for five seconds.
  4. Slowly return to the starting position.
  5. Perform two sets of 10 repetitions at least twice per day.

Read more: How to Run After a Meniscus Injury

4. Toe Raises

To encourage weight bearing, and use the natural pump in your leg to reduce swelling, standing toe raises are an excellent exercise. Unless otherwise instructed by your surgeon, you should be able to walk on your knee the day after a meniscus repair.

  1. Stand at a counter or behind a sturdy chair, holding on only for balance.
  2. Slowly rise up on your toes of both feet.
  3. Try to distribute your weight evenly between the two feet.
  4. Hold for five seconds, and slowly return to the floor.
  5. Repeat 10 times, twice per day.
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