Recovery After Meniscus Surgery
Arthroscopic meniscus surgery of the knee is minimally invasive. Even though the recovery is relatively quick with limited downside risk (compared to other knee procedures), sometimes the clinical improvements can be quite substantial. Depending on the diagnosis on MRI and on the examination of your knee, injuries or tears causing pain can be precisely removed and debris causing locking or catching can be corrected. Although no two patients are alike, with each having a slightly different condition and expected recovery, it would be helpful to review this guide to set your expectations. Most patients can return to school or sedentary work within about 3 to 5 days after the procedure.
Day of surgery
The procedure usually takes much less than 1 hour and you go home the same day. The anesthesia is typically performed under a deep sedation, like a colonoscopy, with numbing medicine used for the incisions. You wake up with a bandage on and can put weight on your knee immediately. Most patients can walk right away, although some will be given crutches for comfort and support.
When you get home, you should elevate and ice your knee in 20-minute intervals, as well as can do some simple quad sets and ankle pumps. It is recommended you pick up an aspirin tablet to take for a couple weeks to prevent blood clots as well as a pain medication to be taken as needed for a few days.
First few weeks
On the third postoperative day you (or your physical therapist) can remove the surgical bandages and you can shower, getting the front of the knee wet. If there are little stickers (called steri-strips) on the incisions you may leave them in place, letting them fall off on their own.
As noted previously, most patients can resume desk work, school, or sedentary activity within 3 to 5 days. If you have had right knee surgery it is recommended you take 14 days to recover before returning to driving, to ensure you can safely hit the brakes. If you have high physical demands at the workplace or require prolonged periods of standing, it is recommended you take 4 to 6 weeks before returning.
Return to sports
After about 4 weeks, it is typically safe and the knee is ready in physical therapy to resume higher level therapy and activities, including the resumption of sporting. Most patients can resume sports without restrictions by 6 weeks.
Rehabilitation by the week
The goal for the early part of the recovery is to improve swelling, regain a full range of motion, and gradually activate the muscles around the knee. You should resume normal walking. Rehab includes the following exercises:
- Full active and passive range of motion, with focus on regaining full extension
- Quad sets, glute sets
- Ankle pumps
- Hamstring and calf stretches
- Multi-angle isometrics (90 to 60 degrees)
- Patellar mobs
- Heel slides
- Bicycle for ROM
- Standing weight shifts
- Standing mini-squats 0 to 30 degrees
- Low-level balance and proprioceptive exercises while standing
- Proprioceptive exercises focus on the ability to sense movement in the joints
By two weeks, you are resuming most activities, are driving, and walking normally. Motion should be full. Some of the exercises performed with your therapist and at home include the following:
- Standing hamstring curls
- Limited ROM leg press
- Bicycle for ROM and light endurance, no resistance
- Stationary mini-lunges
- Calf raises, with initially both legs, then the surgical leg only
- Wall slides
- Progress standing balance and proprioceptive exercises
- Pool walking if incisions full healed and closed
By now you have resumed all independent activity, motion is full, and strength is back. Some of the exercises are as follows:
- Lateral step-ups
- Stair machine
More advanced therapy up to and past 12 weeks can be offered for patients desiring return to higher level sport or function. Some of the exercises include:
- Light plyometrics (jump training) if good hip and knee mechanics
- Forward jogging progressing to running
- Elliptical, stair machine for endurance
- Forward followed by lateral side-to-side agility drills
- Strength and conditioning and sport-specific training such as cutting, pivoting, deep squats
At a Glance
Dr. Thomas Obermeyer
- 15+ years of training and experience treating complex shoulder and sports medicine conditions
- Expert subspecialized and board-certified orthopedic care
- Award-winning outstanding patient satisfaction scores
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