Elliptical Exercise & Meniscus Tears

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A trainer is working with a woman on an elliptical machine. (Image: yacobchuk/iStock/Getty Images)

Meniscus tears typically occur with twisting forces or degenerative wear on the knee. Some tears may heal on their own with rest and treatment. Others caused by significant trauma to the knee may require surgical repair or removal of the meniscus itself. Elliptical exercise is a low-impact, non-twisting activity that you may be able to perform to rehabilitate a tear depending on the severity of the injury or surgical repair needed.

Course of Action

An MRI enables your doctor to see the meniscus and determine the best course of action for the type of tear. Conservative treatment of a minor tear includes ice, compression and medication to reduce swelling and pain. A more severe tear might require trimming the torn part or complete removal of the damaged meniscus. If your meniscus must be removed, your doctor may perform a meniscus transplant or collagen implant.

Reduce the Impact

Elliptical exercise is one mode of activity you may be able to do if your meniscus tear is minor and you are not having pain. In an article published in 2007 in “Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise,” researchers found that elliptical training provided an effective walking and cycling-like exercise motion with reduced impact to the legs. However, good knee joint mobility, stability and muscle strength is recommended before you use an elliptical machine.

Rehabilitating Your Meniscus

The goal of rehabilitation after meniscus surgery is to restore your range of motion, strength and endurance. Your knee may be immobilized for several days after surgery, but strengthening and flexibility exercises should begin soon thereafter. Elliptical exercise may be recommended by your physical therapist or athletic trainer as part of a comprehensive rehabilitation program due to its low-impact nature and ability to work your knee in various ranges of motion with or without resistance.

Getting Evaluated

You may not experience pain with a meniscus tear, according to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. Elliptical exercise is an acceptable exercise only if you have a minor tear and no pain. However, suspected tears causing moderate to severe pain should be diagnosed by a physician. If you experience swelling, pain when squatting or locking of the knee, discontinue your elliptical exercise and any heavy weight-bearing activities until further evaluation by your doctor.

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