Meniscus tear surgery

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  • #41031
    Josh Gray

    Hello Dr Summer,

    For 5 months I’ve been dealing with an ache on the medial front side of my knee that started after a run where I was slipping and sliding in the snow. Then Just two days ago I was doing sandbag getups and coming out of the bottom of a squat and felt a pop on the lateral/back side of my knee accompanied by immediate pain. This also increased the pain on the medial side that has been aching.

    I went to see an orthopedic surgeon yesterday and he’s almost positive it’s a meniscus tear. I’m still awaiting an MRI but we briefly discussed surgical vs non surgical treatment. I have a 100k mountain race I’m training for in July that I’m guessing is out of the question now. In your experience how quickly are these type of injuries recovered from surgical vs non surgical. My Dr. made it sound like the recovery from the surgery could be much quicker/less painful but I wouldn’t be able to exercise during a 2-3 week time frame. Also am I correct in assuming that I will not be recovered in time to complete my race safely? Thank you for help!

  • Moderator
    Thomas Summer, MD on #41036

    Hi Josh,

    How is the knee now? pain? swelling? mobility? stability? What have you done for the last 2 days?
    Have you done any physiotherapy or other therapy in the last 5 months?
    When do you get the MRI?
    Recovery and rehab depend on the kind of injury and kind of possible surgery that would be done.

    I hope you get well soon!
    let’s see about July… there is also another thing that could make the race difficult;-)


    Josh Gray on #41051

    Hi Dr. Summer,

    The swelling and pain today isn’t severe. There is still a bit of inflammation. Yesterday was almost impossible to straighten the leg but today I almost can. anything beyond 90 degree bend produces more pain. I can bear some weight on it without significant pain but cannot walk normally. I’ve mostly rested, iced & elevated it the last 2 days. Because of COVID I can’t get an MRI till Thursday next week. I believe the surgery my dr mentioned was trimming the damaged meniscus. Thanks again!

    Josh Gray on #41052

    Oh I forgot to mention I never did any specific physical therapy for the original pain I had in my knee other than resting for several weeks. Once I realized the pain wouldn’t leave I began training again running and strength.

    Thomas Summer, MD on #41056

    Now that you got an acute trauma to the knee I would tend towards surgery. If only partial resection is done, you will be able to exercise quite quickly. At first bike and in the water, then running. Let’s see what the MRI shows. Thursday is quite soon. When could the surgery be? How old are you?
    Now is a good time to look for a good physiotherapist. Where are you from? How severe are the restrictions?
    Continue with elevating the knee. Ice only if you have pain and/or swelling. And it’s always a good time for core training;-) but only without stressing the knee.


    Josh Gray on #41064

    Hi Dr. Summer,

    Ok well that’s at least some good to hope for for quick recovery after surgery! My doctor didn’t really give me any projections on when surgery can take place. I’m in Colorado and they have lifted restrictions for non essential procedures. I’m 37 years old. I will look for a good PT then and get on the core work! The office gave me several stretches and mobility things I can do know as well. Thank you again. I will update once I get the MRI

    todd.struble on #42626

    Hi Josh, I wanted to add my personal story with a medial meniscus tear and subsequent “partial medial meniscectomy”. I remember being injured with a tear in my knee from soccer and obsessively reading stories about rehab, recovery, and everything in between and appreciated folks who shared. So if it’s helpful, here is one more story to find and compare with your own situation (obviously this is not medical advice!)

    I tore my medial meniscus in my right knee back in 2014 (I was 32) playing indoor soccer; really common injury in sports with pivoting like soccer and basketball. It took me a while to get the MRI and see a surgeon, but once they had the information it was pretty clear that my tear wouldn’t heal based on where it was located (no blood flow to that part of the mensicus) and if I wanted to play soccer or snowboard again, I would need to have the damaged flap of cartilage trimmed out. One tip I would have if you can be flexible – when scheduling your surgery, ask to get on the “cancellation list”! – this moved my surgery up from something like 4-5 months out to getting it done within 10 days of seeing the surgeon because someone cancelled and I was able to tell work I was taking a week off. It literally saved my season of winter sports moving my surgery date up to October instead of something like February or March. And I think most of us over the age of 30 start appreciating that we only have so many epic powder days left. 🙂

    So the day of surgery, I opted to get put under so I had to do some pre-op things for that but the actual experience was… I don’t want to be too flippant about it but it was almost like going to the dentist except for the hospital gown. I was the last surgery of the day for the orthopedist probably because of the cancellation and I asked him how many surgeries he’d done that day and I don’t recall exactly but it was like more than 5 and he apologized because the last patient had some additional damage to their ACL or something that took longer than expected. So while knee surgery is sort of a huge life event for most of us, I got the vibe it was just another day in the office for the surgeon (and his excellent team). That might be reassuring… or not, since who doesn’t have a bad day in the office once in a while? kind of like watching the procedure on youtube. Not sure if that made me feel better or worse! Ha!

    They put me under and I woke up groggy a few hours later with some good meds for a few days. I think I was at the hospital for less than 10 hours total. I recall the surgeon prescribed PT for me but basically said “you won’t need it – functionally you’ll be good to go right after this surgery but pain will prevent you from doing too much until the swelling goes down” The recovery time for me was crutching around immediately; standing and a few steps within a week, walking at around two weeks; and then just progressively more activity as the swelling went down and mobility returned to my knee. I recall within three months I was back to running and playing soccer and I was definitely able to get some shredding in that season. 2-3 weeks I think I was biking but not running.

    It’s been a few years now and I’m thankful that I’ve been able to stay as active as I was before the surgery with no negative functional impacts. Pivoting, deep squats, nothing is really a problem. Long term though, I will say that I notice the difference in my right knee. After long days in the mountains, it tends to get sore, and every once in a while I overdo it with something like downhill running on pavement and my knee will be sore for weeks or in one case, months before the pain goes away. I do wonder if the hundreds of miles of running and training is setting me up for arthritis earlier than I would otherwise; but I rationalize it as the price for living a very active life.

    So anyway, the short version is that the recovery is super fast in general, but I think 2-3 weeks might be a bit optimistic for full activity. I also echo the tip of getting your bike tuned up and ready to go – you’ll be able to do that first as your ROM improves.

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