Exactly what rehabilitation is needed depends on several factors, and you should always check with your doctor prior to initiating or changing your post-operative rehab in any way. This is especially important because there are other procedures that may be performed at the same time as the meniscus repair that may alter the normal post-operative rehab schedule.
Typical Rehab ScheduleThere is quite a lot of controversy in the sports medicine world as to "the best" rehabilitation from meniscus repair surgery. Traditionally, the rehab was very slow, with activities restricted for many months after surgery. More recently, a faster rehab has been attempted. However, there is still no consensus, and many surgeons vary in their recommendations. Always follow your doctor's specific instructions for post-operative rehab.
The most common rehab after meniscus repair is listed here. It is about 'middle of the road' between very conservative and very aggressive.
- Immediately Post-Operative
Upon awakening in the recovery room, patients are placed in a knee brace. The brace used may either be a knee immobilizer or a hinged knee brace. A knee immobilizer holds the knee fully extended, while a hinged knee brace can allow for controlled motion of the knee. If a hinged knee brace is used, it is locked with the knee fully straight.
Patients are given crutches, and instructed to walk with the crutches. Most often, patients will be allowed to place weight on the operated leg so long as the knee is held fully straight (either with a knee immobilizer or a hinged knee brace locked in extension).
- The Early Days
Patients can remove the knee brace or immobilizer while not walking, and bend the knee up to about 60 degrees. Patients should continue to use a brace whenever walking, and only place weight on the leg if the knee is held fully straight by the brace.
- After One Month
After a month or so, more motion is allowed. Patients can walk with the knee in the brace, but no longer locked in extension. Strenuous activities are still restricted as the meniscus continues to heal.
- 3-4 Months
By 3 to 4 months, most surgeons will allow return to full activities and no longer protect the knee. Patients must slowly return to sports and competition, but they no longer have restrictions on motion and do not require the use of a brace.
Laible C, et al. "Meniscal Repair" J Am Acad Orthop Surg April 2013 vol. 21 no. 4 204-213