Can You Run With A Torn Meniscus? Few Things You Need To Understand

can you run with a torn meniscus

Can you run with a torn meniscus? Are treadmills bad with knee pain? To be honest, the answer to these questions depends on a few issues. Let’s discuss some of them.

What Is a Torn Meniscus?

The meniscus is cartilage located between the tibia and femur bones around the knee. The tibia is the large shinbone, while the femur is the thighbone. The meniscus cushions the stress and weight subjected to cartilages around the knee joint, as well as in all other joints within your body.

Because the meniscus acts as a shock absorber, it gives your knee the stability it requires to function. Twisting or bending the knee with significant force may cause the meniscus to tear. A torn meniscus causes the knee to swell. This usually happens within one or two days if the injury is not severe. Afterward, the knee becomes painful when you twist or bend the joint.

When the meniscus is torn, a tearing or popping experience happens, and moderate to severe pain around the knee joint is felt. The affected knee joint becomes very weak, and it will find it difficult to support your body’s weight.

Consequently, the torn meniscus swells and stiffens, preventing you from engaging in any active sport, such as running. In more serious situations, you might need to visit a physician to determine the level of damage done and to be prescribed with medical treatment.

Can You Run With a Torn Meniscus?

Running with a torn meniscus will not only worsen the injury, but it will also reduce the ability of the knee to have a stabilized movement. The joint becomes painful, and the knees become unreliable in activities that require weight-bearing functions, like sports and running.

Results of Running with a Meniscus Tear

In cases where the tear is small or located near abundant blood supply, the condition tends to heal on its own. However, severe cases are treated with total bed rest. You are requested to rest the affected leg in an elevated position and constantly apply ice on the affected joint.

After a period of two to three weeks, the physician may recommend some physical therapy for rehabilitation, such as feet extension for strengthening the affected knee joint.

Do not go back to running activities yet, unless the physician informs you that you are safe to do so. Running with a torn meniscus can cause long-term or permanent damage to the joint. Extensive damage will require a knee operation and can take up to five months to recover fully.

Chronic meniscus caused by running with a torn meniscus or a torn cartilage that is not properly healed can lead to meniscectomy. This procedure involves the trimming or removal of the affected part from the healthy cartilage to do away with knee weakness and popping, as well as to reduce the pain in the joint.

The majority of people who undergo this treatment recovers. They can go back to playing sports, although in moderate sports activities only.

can you run with a torn meniscus

Are Treadmills Bad With Knee Pain?

Exercising with bad knees can be painful, but you can solve the problem by choosing the right kind of exercise. The exercise has to be one that increases your balance and stability while, at the same time, reduces the pain.

The training should have a low impact and less weight, such as walking on the treadmill. This enhances bone density and helps the joint to be more flexible. The best treadmills for this type of walking exercise have features that help to reduce such stress on your knees.

When you have a knee problem, and the physician clears you to use a treadmill, you can choose one with a cushioned belt and enhanced stability. This will allow brisk walking with low impacts. This kind of treadmill can also reduce the impact on the knees by 40% when compared with a hard surface treadmill.

Additionally, this comes with adjustable settings to allow you to get the most suitable exercise for your condition. A treadmill rated 50 pounds more than your weight is the best for such a practice.

A Few Factors To Consider

The use of treadmill when you have bad knees depends on several factors:

The Impact

Walking is a low-impact exercise while running is a high-impact activity. When your workout is running, your knees will experience more pressure than when walking.

Using an elliptical machine or walking on the treadmill results in a low impact on your body. However, running on the treadmill with painful knees will worsen the condition.

The Surface

A treadmill gives a better cushion when compared to walking or running on the road. It also absorbs shock better. As a result, the treadmill provides a better running surface than the road and is a better alternative when having knee problems.

A standard treadmill has a hard surface compared to well-cushioned surfaces, like a cushioned track or a golf course. With a painful knee, it is advisable to use the cushioned type.

Working Backward

Research has shown that when you run or walk backward on the treadmill, you reduce the force on your knees. This can be an alternative workout if you have painful knees. If you experience pain on your knees when you squat, backward walking on the treadmill can be helpful.

Similarly, backward walking can move your rehabilitation forward when you are suffering from a hamstring injury and when you lack lower back or hamstring flexibility. Finally, there are perfectly designed shoes with plenty of shock absorbers that can take care of stress when using a treadmill with painful knees.

Running After a Meniscus Injury  

When you injure your meniscus, it may feel as if your future in running is going to come to a standstill. However, that isn’t necessarily what’s going to happen.

While it is true that the meniscus plays an important role when it comes to absorbing all the forces that the knee has to sustain while running, several people who have this tear actually end up having minimal symptoms.

A study published in 2005 in the Journal of Arthroscopic and Related Surgery found that 20% of professional basketball players that were asymptomatic but did an MRI test did indeed have meniscus tears. This basically indicates that they continued to play the game with the meniscus tear and still were in no pain.

can you run with a torn meniscus

We recommend that you take these following steps that could potentially increase the odds of you going back to running:

Rest and Motion Restoration  

The very first step towards proper recovery is when you allow the inflammation that comes with the meniscus injury to settle down. Before you even consider to run, ensure that the pain, redness, warmth, and swelling in the knee has resolved properly.  

You can also consider icing your knee about three to four times a day for 10 to 15 minutes. This helps in speeding up the recovery process. It is also important that you are recovering your previous range of motion that used to be in the knee, as this will ensure that you are able to go back to the regular gait pattern that you had when you ran before the injury.

Another effective and easy way to reach this goal is by doing stretches. There is a particular exercise called the heel slide that is a great place to start from.

How to Do the Heel Slide

To do this, you will need to lie on your back. Keeping your legs straight, slide the heel slowly towards you until you are feeling a slight pull. Hold this position for about five seconds.

Thereafter, straighten your knee until you have a similar stretch. Again, you will need to hold this position for five seconds before you relax. Do at least 10 repetitions of this daily until you have regained your normal motion.

Gluteus Medius Strengthening  

The gluteus medius is the small hip muscle, and this helps us to maintain the right knee alignment when we run. When you pull the hip and knee outwards, this small muscle will equalize the force that is placed on the knee joint and prevent it from falling into a knock-knee position.

By doing side-lying leg raises, you can strengthen the gluteus medius.  

How to Do Side-Lying Leg Raises

Begin by lying on your side. Keep your legs straight and then stack them over each other. Now, without letting your hips rock backward, raise the top leg about 10 inches upwards and get it back down slowly.

Try to maintain the top leg in the same line along the rest of the body the whole time. Do at least three to four sets of 10 to 12 repetitions. Repeat the same exercise with your other leg.

Shortening Steps  

After you feel that the pain has lessened and you’ve begun focusing on the range of motion and strengthening for at least four to six weeks, you could start running once again. However, what may benefit you is to shorten the length of the steps you take when you are doing this.

When you decrease the length of the step by even 10%, it will force you to stride the center part of the foot when you are landing. This diminishes the force the knee takes. You can download metronome apps on your phone that could help you alter your steps properly.

Quadriceps Strengthening  

The quadriceps are the set of muscles that play an important role in supporting the knee and in reducing the strain on your meniscus.

By building the strength of your quads, you help yourself to lessen the pain that is associated with the meniscus injury. You also increase the likelihood of running on that same knee again.

You can benefit a lot by doing mini-squats, as these are effective exercises to target this muscle group.

How to Do Mini-Squats

Make sure that you are standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and keep your arms extended in front of you. Now, you can slowly perform a squat by sitting your buttocks towards the back and then allowing your knees to bend to a point where there is no pain.   

Make sure that you are not buckling your knees inwards or even traveling them past your toes. Hold this position for at least a second or two before you slowly stand up again. Do this exercise three times with 10 repetitions every time, every day.

Pacing Yourself  

Even if you think that the pain has subsided and you are feeling good when you go back running, it’s essential that you are progressing as slowly as possible so that you do not injure yourself again.

With everything we have listed above, it is important to keep in mind that when you run, it places a lot of pressure on your knee. This could end up causing more damage.  

In order to pace yourself, you will need to make sure that you are giving yourself ample rest a day in between runs. Additionally, you should progress the mileage but not more than 10% every week.

Try cross-training by making use of a bike or an elliptical machine; it helps to allow the knee to recover from the pain properly. Speak to a doctor who can help make a personalized exercise routine for you to lower the risk of this happening again.

Warning and Precautions  

If you think you aren’t able to get back to running comfortably even after the steps we’ve listed, then it is imperative that you visit a doctor to discuss your existing symptoms.

Never push through the pain as that can have the opposite effect. Doing so would further damage your knee and even limit your recovery options.

Final Thoughts  

To answer whether can you run with a torn meniscus, yes, you can, but you have to do so with a lot of caution. Make sure that you first try to understand how having a torn meniscus affects you.

If you are going to follow our recommendations, ensure that you are not pushing yourself to a point where you are in a lot of pain. With everything said, we would always recommend visiting a doctor who will help you understand how you can manage your pain better.

2 thoughts on “Can You Run With A Torn Meniscus? Few Things You Need To Understand”

  1. I like this information very much, as a regular marathon and half marathon runner I have had my fair share of knee injuries, thankfully never a serious injury. I think its great you are making people aware of these problems as most people dont realise the issues these injuries can cause and is sometimes mistaken for other problems. Whats your take on treadmill running in general? I’m personally a great believer in outside running has all the best health benefits.


    • Hi, Kevin and thank you.

      Yes, this injuries can be very tricky and people need to respect it. In the meaning to take it seriously.

      About running outside versus treadmill, my opinion is that both are good but we need to look at each person and circumstances. There are many factors to have in mind but for example, in the summertime, I think it is better to run outside. But when winter comes I would prefer running on the treadmill than in snow or frozen ground. What is good for one runner, in the debate of running outside or on a treadmill, can be different for other because there can be injuries or other physical problem which had a lot to do with what is best for you.

      If I can help you with anything else, or if you have any questions, don´t hesitate to contact me.


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