Meniscus Tear: Care Instructions

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Meniscus tear

Overview

The meniscus is rubbery tissue in the knee that acts as a shock absorber between the upper and lower leg bones. The meniscus also keeps your knee stable by spreading weight across it. Each knee has two menisci (plural of meniscus). You can tear a meniscus if you plant your foot and twist, or pivot. The meniscus also can wear down as you age, and it can tear from squatting or kneeling.

Some tears may feel better on their own with home care and rehab. For others, your doctor may recommend surgery to repair it or to remove part of the meniscus. Your doctor may want you to see a doctor who specializes in bones and sports injuries.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Rest your knee when possible.
  • Do not squat or kneel.
  • Take pain medicines exactly as directed.
    • If the doctor gave you a prescription medicine for pain, take it as prescribed.
    • If you are not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if you can take an over-the-counter medicine.
  • Put ice or a cold pack on your knee for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Try to do this every 1 to 2 hours for the next 3 days (when you are awake) or until the swelling goes down. Put a thin cloth between the ice and your skin.
  • Prop up the sore leg on a pillow when you ice your knee or any time you sit or lie down during the next 3 days. Try to keep your leg above the level of your heart. This will help reduce swelling.
  • Follow your doctor's directions for using crutches or a knee brace, if suggested.
  • Follow your doctor's directions for exercises to keep your knee mobile and your leg muscles strong. Here are a few exercises you can try if your doctor says it is okay.
    • Quad sets: Lie down on the floor or the bed with your injured leg straight. Fully extend your leg—there should be no or little bend in your knee. Tighten the thigh (quadriceps) of your injured leg for 6 seconds. Do not lift your heel up. Relax your quadriceps for 10 seconds. Repeat this exercise 8 to 12 times several times during the day.
    • Straight-leg raises to the front: Lie down on the floor or the bed with your injured leg flat and your uninjured leg bent so that the bottom of your foot is on the floor or bed. Tighten the quadriceps of your injured leg. Keeping your knee as straight as possible, lift your injured leg off the bed until your heel is about 12 inches above the bed or floor. Hold for 6 seconds and then lower slowly. Do 8 to 12 repetitions.
    • Straight-leg raises to the back: Lie on your stomach, and lift your leg straight up behind you (toward the ceiling). Lift your toes about 6 inches off the floor, hold for about 6 seconds, and then lower slowly. Do 8 to 12 repetitions.
    • Heel raises: Stand with your feet a few inches apart. Rest your hands lightly on a counter or chair in front of you. Slowly raise your heels off the floor while keeping your knees straight. Hold for 6 seconds, and then slowly lower your heels to the floor. Do 8 to 12 repetitions several times during the day.

When should you call for help?

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • You have increasing knee pain or swelling or both.
  • Your knee is so sore or stiff that you cannot walk on it.
  • You do not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.