Recovery From Meniscus Knee Injury

So, after several year’s of struggling with knee injuries and many meniscus tears (5 previous knee operations), I feel this time I have certainly found the answers to staying away from the general anesthetics and hospital beds (barring any freak incidents)!

After many year’s of not taking good enough care of my knees, when I re-trained as a personal trainer I made it a priority to learn the appropriate exercises and methods to support my knee issues best.

With a different approach to rehabilitation, strength building and further injury prevention my legs have never felt so strong.

For the 4 years prior to this freak incident with which pushing off in soft sand at the beach caused a Lateral Meniscus tear, my knees had been the strongest they ever have been.

Things I have done differently in the past 4 years?

My last operation prior to earlier this month was in September 2014 and it was really starting to become apparent to me that I had to start taking care of my knees after several years of giving them a tough time through certain sports and lack of strengthening work done on them. I had also been informed that I had a bad case of osteoarthritis in my right knee.

I took it upon myself to start my own fitness journey, altering my activity slightly and incorporating strength training for my legs at the gym became paramount.

I stopped playing football (I wasn’t that good anyway) and changed my gym goals to suit playing the sport I love, golf! I also lowered my impact exercises at the gym to pretty much zero and focused heavily on strengthening my Quadriceps, Hamstrings and Glutes (I was spending far too much time on upper body before).

I was adding in different types of squatting in to training 5 days a week, Deadlifting, Leg Press, Hamstring Curls, Glute Bridges, Forward and Reverse Lunging regularly as well as training on the exercise bike up to 4 days per week.

Aches and pains in the joint were subsiding substantially, my muscle definition had improved, and my confidence had increased. Finally, after a long time of being in pain around a golf course, I was walking around a full 18 holes pain free! My golf game was on its way back.

What have I done post knee arthroscopy this time around?

Week 1 & 2:

  • Follow the Physio’s initial guidance post knee operation.
  • Rest up accordingly. Walk short distances with regular breaks.
  • Listen to your body. Light cycling on exercise bike to increase range of movement.

Week 3:

  • Continue light cycling on exercise bike with low resistance, gradually increase if there is no pain.
  • Stretch off appropriately after exercise.
  • Incorporate body weight exercise such as wall squats with exercise ball, straight leg raises and step ups.

What role does nutrition play?

So how does nutrition fit into this process? By helping to reduce inflammation and by providing the nutrients needed to aid repair and remodeling. Paying attention to your diet is something that you can control during the frustrating period of downtime and help to speed up your recovery process. Here are some specific nutritional strategies to follow while you are injured.

Strategy – increase anti-inflammatory omega 3 polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats, while reducing pro-inflammatory omega 6 polyunsaturated fats and saturated fats, avoiding trans-fats altogether (found in most processed foods). A low omega 6:3 ratio supports healing and collagen deposition, while mono-unsaturated fat inhibits the ongoing production of inflammatory chemicals such as leukotrienes. How to do this? Every day take 3-6g of fish oil daily (in capsule or liquid form), eat half an avocado, use a tablespoon of olive oil as a salad dressing or over cooked vegetables, and sprinkle a tablespoon of ground flaxseed onto breakfast cereal, muesli or porridge or in a smoothie. This may be more practical done in supplement form due to the amounts required. Avoid cooking with vegetable oils (use coconut oil or organic rapeseed/canola oil) and minimise processed foods such as cakes, biscuits, crackers, cereal bars.

Also, to support recover, eat high amounts of foods with anti-inflammatory properties daily. Where can I find this? The first food is turmeric (a spice, used in curries) which contains curcumin, a nutrient shown to have potent anti-inflammatory effects. Include a teaspoon each day in cooking or take 400-600mg a day in supplement form. The second food is garlic, which contains a compound called allicin that inhibits the activity of enzymes involved in the inflammatory process.

What your Personal Trainer should be helping you with

  • Knee Range of Motion exercises. Your PT can help you recover fully after a knee meniscus tear.
  • Quadriceps and Hamstring exercises to strengthen around your knee.
  • Balance and Proprioception.
  • Plyometrics and Neuromuscular Training.

How long will the process be?

Although a full recovery should only take 6-8 weeks, this doesn’t mean the work is done then. It is still essential to your knee/leg strong so that it limits the chances of a similar injury re-occurring but also being smart about the choices you make when it comes to exercise.

I am now 3 weeks into my recovery, feeling good about the procedure I had done and am looking forward to making strides towards getting back on that golf course!

Look out for my updated blog in a months time when I plan to be fully back participating and playing in my usual activities.