Fitness

The 11 Best Exercises For A Torn Meniscus

Strengthening the legs is key.

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The meniscus is the cartilage between the two main bones in your knee, says physical therapist Alyssa Kuhn, DPT. If you move too quickly, twist your knee, or place too much stress on it, you can end up with a torn meniscus — aka one of the most common knee injuries.

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Signs Of A Torn Meniscus

You might have a tear if your knee hurts when you put weight on it, Kuhn says, or if it swells, locks, or doesn’t bend. While it may be necessary to see a doctor for serious cases, the injury can often heal on its own with rest, ice, and a few exercises.

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Deadlift

Kuhn suggests building up your leg muscles to support your knees.

- Stand, dumbbell in each hand at thighs.

- Unlock knees, reach hips back.

- Slide weights down your legs.

- When weights reach knees, push into heels.

- Squeeze glutes to stand.

- Do 2 sets of 8-10 reps.

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Seated Leg Lifts

Kuhn says this exercise for a torn meniscus gently strengthens the thighs.

- Sit on the edge of a bench.

- Bend knees, place feet flat on floor.

- Raise one leg out straight.

- Lower leg back to start.

- Repeat 1 to 2 sets of 10 to 20 reps per leg.

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Mini Squats

Yoga pro Lara Heimann, PT suggests mini squats to strengthen your legs without straining the knees.

- Stand with your feet parallel.

- Bend knees slightly.

- Push hips back.

- Straighten knees to stand.

- Repeat slowly 15 to 20 times.

- Stop if you have knee pain.

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Heel Raises

Heel raises work your legs and keep your ankles mobile so they don’t stress the knees, Heimann says.

- Get into a squat.

- Hold the squat, slightly lift heels off floor.

- Push into balls of feet.

- Remain steady.

- Slowly lower heels to floor.

- Repeat for 1 minute.

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Hamstring Bridges

Physical therapist Seth King PT, DPT says strong hamstrings assist knee function.

- Lie on floor, both heels up on chair, knees bent 90 degrees.

- Push into both heels, raise hips up to bridge.

- Hold at top.

- Slowly lower hips.

- Do 3 sets of 12 to 15 reps.

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Calf Raises

Strong calves also support a healing meniscus injury, King says.

- Stand with front half of both feet on elevated surface, like small step.

- Push into balls of feet, raise straight up.

- Slowly lower heels to start.

- Do 3 sets of 12 to 15 reps.

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Cycling

King recommends gently cycling as your meniscus heals, which can take four to eight weeks. “It’s very important to stay active, as exercise keeps the blood flowing to your healing knee,” he says.

- Low resistance level.

- Slow speed, 40 RPM.

- Do 10 minutes 3x a week.

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Walking

Walking is another great exercise for a torn meniscus, says physical therapist Dave Candy, PT, DPT. The extra blood flow can speed up the recovery process.

- Walk at a comfortable pace.

- Aim for 10 to 20 minutes per day as symptoms allow.

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Heel Slides

Range of motion exercises like this will help your knee bend, Candy says.

- Sit in a chair on a slick surface.

- Place a towel or sock under your foot.

- Slide your foot out then back in.

- Bend as far as you can without pain.

- Aim for 20 reps per day.

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Quad Set

Physical therapist Megan McLain, PT, DPT says this move helps improve knee weakness when standing and walking.

- Sit on your bed or floor with leg out straight.

- Press the back of your leg into ground, slowly tighten thigh.

- Hold 5 seconds.

- Release.

- Repeat 10x.

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Hamstring Curls

McLain recommends slowly working up to tougher exercises as your knee heals.

- Lie on your stomach, knees straight.

- Lift foot of injured knee.

- Bend knee so your foot moves towards your butt.

- Slowly lower foot back down.

- Do 8 to 10 reps twice a day.