If you follow sports, you’ve probably heard the term “meniscus tear” used before. In many cases, “season-ending” may also be used in the same sentence, which can create the notion that a meniscus tear is nearly always a serious injury that leads to dire outcomes. While it’s true that a meniscus tear can in fact cause an athlete to miss the remainder of a season while they have an operation, some tears don’t require surgery and can be treated with physical therapy. In fact, physical therapy can help patients with meniscus tears in New York City at every step of the recovery process, no matter the treatment.
The meniscus is a tough, rubbery, C-shaped piece of cartilage that rests between your shinbone (tibia) and thighbone (femur) in the knee. Each knee has two menisci (plural of meniscus), with one on the inner and the other on the outer side of the knee. These menisci both serve the same purpose: to absorb shock and stabilize the knee.
Meniscus tears are among the most common knee injuries in sports. Athletes, especially those that play contact sports like football and soccer, have a higher risk of sustaining a tear to the meniscus, but the injury can occur in anyone at any age. In most cases, the meniscus tears as the result of twisting or turning quickly on a bent knee, often when the foot is planted on the ground. Older adults, on the other hand, are more likely to have degenerative meniscus tears. For these individuals, the meniscus has weakened and worn thin over time, and something as minor as an awkward twist when getting up from a chair can cause the cartilage to tear.
Whatever the cause, the symptoms of a meniscus tear are usually quite similar. Some patients experience a “pop” or tearing sensation immediately after the tear, and there will usually be some sharp, intense pain either right away or soon after. This is typically accompanied by stiffness and swelling, an inability to move the knee normally and difficulty walking.
If a meniscus tear occurs, the automatic assumption is often that surgery will be needed to repair it. Although this may be accurate for certain tears and for certain patients, it is not always the case. The treatment for meniscus tears in New York City depends on the size, type and severity of the tear, and in many cases, a patient can recover with conservative (non-surgical) treatment. A major component of conservative treatment is physical therapy, and at Dynamic Sports Physical Therapy, we can help determine what treatment is best for you and offer our services throughout your recovery process.
How physical therapy can help with meniscus tears in New York City
- A physical therapist can first perform some tests and a short course of treatment to determine if surgery is needed; this information will usually be used in conjunction with results from an MRI and the opinion of an orthopedic surgeon; if the tear is small and on the outer edge of the meniscus, it may not require surgery
- If surgery is not needed, your physical therapist will get you started on a course of cautious conservative treatment, which will likely include the following:
- RICE: rest, ice, compression and elevation
- Once it is considered safe, you will begin performing strengthening exercises for the knee
- These exercises will increase in intensity, and eventually strengthening exercises for the thighs, hips and calves may also be included
- Your therapist may also use a treatment called neuromuscular electrical stimulation, which applies an electrical stimulus to improve the strength and flexibility of your muscles
- If you do need surgery, our physical therapists can help you regain your strength and function afterwards with a rehabilitation program that addresses any deficits you may have; if you’re an athlete, they can also work on training that is specific to your sport to help you return to your prior level of performance
A meniscus tear can be a serious injury, but it does not always require surgery. Regardless of if you need surgery or not, our physical therapists can help at just about any stage of recovery from meniscus tears in New York City. Contact Dynamic Sports Physical Therapy at 212-317-8303 to find out more or to schedule an appointment today.