Your Questions Answered About Torn Meniscus Recovery Time

You have hurt your knee, and your doctor says you’ve torn your meniscus. It’s one of the most common knee injuries, suffered by approximately 61 out of every 100,000 people a year, and usually happens when you forcibly twist or rotate your knee while your foot is planted.

You may have questions about your treatment options and how they affect your meniscus tear recovery. Town Center Orthopaedics’ Dr. Jeffrey H. Berg explains what you need to know.

What to Expect From Torn Meniscus Treatment and Recovery

An illustration of the top view of the right knee, showing the different parts, including the lateral and medial meniscus.

In each knee joint, two C-shaped discs, individually called the meniscus, make up the menisci. They rest between the end of your thigh bone and the top of your shin bone. They are important shock absorbers and knee stabilizer.

“Meniscus tears can occur during athletic or everyday activities and are a common source of knee pain, swelling, and disability,” Dr. Berg says. “Some people are treated without surgery, while others, typically active people, require surgery to get better.”

Photo of the femur, tibia, and meniscus after a meniscectomy.

Image of a Meniscal Tear

The Nonsurgical Approach to a Torn Meniscus

For degenerative tears that occur in older, less active people, nonoperative treatment may be recommended, including:

  • Resting the knee to reduce further irritation
  • Taking anti-inflammatories to reduce pain, swelling, and any inflammation
  • Undergoing physical therapy to correct any weakness or dysfunction that arises from the initial problem

According to Dr. Berg, “You should hopefully see an improvement in your symptoms within four to six weeks, though it may take even more time to fully recover. Experience suggests a trial of at least three months before abandoning this approach for surgery.”

The Surgical Approach to a Torn Meniscus

There are two main types of torn meniscus surgery.

  1. Meniscectomy: Removing the torn pieces of the tear
  2. Meniscal Repair: Stitching the tear edges together

Your torn meniscus surgery recovery time will depend on which surgery you undergo. Note that in many cases, tears are not repairable either because there isn’t enough blood flow to the torn tissue to facilitate healing, or because the type and degree of tissue damage make the tear not amenable to repair. As a result, meniscectomies that remove torn pieces are much more common than meniscal repairs.

Meniscectomy Surgery and Recovery

Meniscectomy is quick, usually without much post-op pain or disability, and it’s typically reliable at relieving pain and restoring function,” Dr. Berg says. Because tissue is removed rather than repaired, the knee doesn’t have to be protected as much after surgery.

 Photo of the femur, tibia, and a meniscus tear.

Image After Meniscectomy

After a meniscectomy, you can commonly bear weight on the surgical leg immediately. In fact, you will typically be able to progress to activities with limits only determined by your symptoms and surgeon.

Usually, improvement should be noticed two to six weeks after surgery. However, it’s not uncommon to have some symptoms (such as pain or swelling) with increased activities for three to four months. Physical therapy may hasten recovery. Advanced age, coexisting arthritis in the surgical knee, and having had additional procedures performed during the meniscectomy can prolong the recovery.

Meniscus Repair and Recovery

During a meniscal repair, “Sutures are used to close the tear site and hold the edges of the tear or the meniscus and the tissue that it tore from together until it heals,” Dr. Berg explains. “This healing takes time.”

 Photo of the femur, tibia, lateral meniscus, and the tear site after repair.

Image of a Meniscal Repair

During recovery, the sutures could break, and if the tear is not yet healed, the repair can fall apart. For this reason, activities and motion will often be restricted after this surgery. It’s common for a brace to be used for the first several weeks.

Similarly, your surgeon may suggest limiting how much weight can be put on the surgical leg and how deeply you can bend the knee. These restrictions protect the repair and may promote better tear healing, but they also may lead to weakness, stiffness, and prolonged swelling. This is why the meniscus surgery recovery for repair is usually much longer than when the tear is removed.

Although pain may improve in several weeks, it will take longer for optimal function to be achieved. Typically, Dr. Berg doesn’t allow jogging for three months and agility exercises for four to five months. After this type of surgery, many won’t return to full activities for about six months.

Where to Find the Best Torn Meniscus Treatment in Virginia

Dr. Berg and all of us at Town Center Orthopaedics in Ashburn, Fairfax, Centreville, and Reston are dedicated to providing the best quality, full-service orthopedic care in Virginia. We specialize in treating pain and disorders of the knee with the latest cutting-edge surgical and nonsurgical methods. We also provide physical therapy, pain management, and sports medicine.

To schedule your evaluation with an orthopedic doctor to discuss your symptoms, call us at Town Center Orthopaedics anytime at (571) 250-5435 or request an appointment online. We look forward to helping you soon.

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