The final step in meniscus rehabilitation is stretching - this is a critical step for complete recovery from a medial meniscus tear or a lateral meniscus tear.
When you are dealing with a torn meniscus, stretching plays a huge role in rehabilitation - whether you undergo surgery or not. This is especially true if you are immobilizing your knee after surgery with a cast, brace or by using crutches. Long-term immobilization of your knee can lead to growth of massive amounts of scar tissue; this scar tissue stiffens up your knee joint - lack of use of the the joint causes surrounding muscles to atrophy (waste away).
For many people stretching seems like a basic thing but you'd be surprised by how many people there are that don't understand the importance of stretching a medial meniscus injury, especially after surgery.
Each of your legs support an intense amount of weight everyday. When you suffer from a meniscus injury in your knee you're unable to support your own weight in the same way you used to. This can make simple tasks like walking or even standing extremely difficult for you. A full recovery from your meniscus injury (especially after surgery) depends on your commitment to stretching and strengthening exercises.
Physical therapists prescribe gentle stretching of your knee before making the transition to crutches after surgery and as you recover from having to use immobilization tools like a knee brace. They don't prescribe this to annoy you - it's in fact the most important part of your recovery. You probably know someone that chose not to do any stretching - and they paid a high price for it. By not listening to their therapist (i.e. not stretching), there is a huge chance of re-injuring your meniscus or even getting a more serious injury than your original meniscus tear.
Ask any physical therapist and they'll tell you the key to a successful recovery is commitment to exercise at home.
HEAT (warmth) is used after you've reduced your swelling / inflammation and the sharp pain is less intense (you have more of a dull / nagging ache and soft tissue tightness in your knee). Warming up tissue using a T•Shellz Wrap® is a natural way to stimulate the body's tissue healing capability. Increasing the temperature of tissue results in increased blood flow circulation as the body sends more blood to attempt to remove this same heat. It's the blood in your body that will bring oxygen, nutrients and water (basically energy) to damaged tissue to help with healing.
When heat is applied to tissue in the knee, veins will start to get bigger (expand) to allow more blood flow through to your damaged or torn soft tissue. This in turn relaxes your knee, making the tissue more flexible and elastic. This is why heat is used on older (chronic) injuries, to loosen tissue and bring in the blood flow needed for healing. Your body will begin to heal itself after it is injured - increasing your blood flow with heat will speed up this natural process - often surprisingly well.
Doctors usually call this process 'Vasodilation'.
When we injure ourselves, we start healing right away. The body will naturally raise the temperature at the site of the injury resulting in the inflammatory response (redness, heat sensation, inflammation and swelling). This 'fake fever' leaks blood flow to the area to cool it down and start the healing process. Adding 'heat' to your knee when it's already inflamed and tender may make your body think there's a new threat to your tissue and increase the pain in order to get you to stop. For some people applying heat on inflamed / swollen tissue will cause the injury to swell-up even more (as much as 3 times larger than normal). You'll feel even more pain as the pressure builds in your knee.
Heat is NOT a good treatment method for inflamed soft tissue, new injuries (within the first 24 to 72 hours), right after surgery or right after a re-injury (over-use and/or sharp, throbbing pain). In these cases, heat should be applied later on in the healing cycle. In the meantime, use a Cold Compress or Ice Pack to decrease any inflammation induced pain.
A T•Shellz Wrap® temperature treatment works best to increase blood flow circulation and stimulate healing for older (chronic) injuries, re-injury (after swelling has been reduced) and during long-term post surgery recovery. Warmer temperatures should be used approximately 3 to 5 days after you first have the injury. Heat should not be started for a least 6 weeks after surgery (and only after approval from your PT or surgeon) because inflammation levels will be very high as the healing process starts over again. Any use of heat should also be combined with gradual movement to stretch out your knee and increase range of motion.
If you have a chronic knee injury that keeps getting re-injured you should use heat before activity to loosen up your tissue (making it more flexible). When used at this time the warm temperatures naturally extend the elasticity (elastic-nature) of the joint, making it more movable / pliable for activity.
Sometimes we feel pain while doing a certain activity - should you still use heat? Using heat in the morning before you start your day or before activity can help to boost the healing process and reduce your risk of re-injury. Too much heat (especially when you suffer a set-back with swelling / inflammation) can make your inflammation worse. Cold treatments with a Cold Compress or Ice Pack should be used part-way through your day when you suffer from on-going pain and inflammation as a natural pain-reliever.
Keep using Circulation Boost before activity and when you notice any stiffness in your knee to 'warm up' your muscles, tendons & ligaments - and stimulate healing.
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Physical therapy is a beneficial way to restore atrophied muscles and improve strength and mobility during knee rehabiltation. The type of physical therapy and the duration will be dependent on the tissue damage and your symptoms. When you are treating or recovering from a meniscus injury, it is important to ensure you do not perform any exercises that will further irritate the meniscus or possible cause reinjury.
Once your pain starts to diminish, a physiotherapist will set up an individualized strengthening and stretching exercise program for you to perform at home or in the gym. This will be based on your needs and abilities, and will help you return to performing your normal routines.
Individuals will often lift weights on their own, to try and build up their strength. However, in doing so, they can do more damage to their joint. It is extremely important to strengthen your muscles properly, as they may have weakened during the period of non-use. A trained therapist will help to ensure your rehabilitation process is appropriate and effective. For best, long term results use T•Shellz Wraps® at home in conjunction with physical therapy and an exercise program.
Living with pain is never easy and we encourage you to call us with any questions you have related to how our products can aid your meniscus tear, articular cartilage or damaged ligaments in the knee. We will do our best to help.
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During your recovery, you will probably have to modify and/or eliminate any activities that cause pain or discomfort at the location of your soft tissue injury until the pain and inflammation settle. Always consult your doctor and/or Physical Therapist before using any of our outstanding products, to make sure they are right for you and your condition. The more diligent you are with your treatment and rehabilitation, the faster you will see successful results!
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