Regardless of what caused it, a torn meniscus can result in pain, stiffness, and swelling. Ugh. You don’t want to miss out on the fitness routine that you’ve worked so hard to build, but with meniscal damage, is it still OK to exercise and use your rower?
Keep in mind that I cannot provide medical advice as I am not a doctor nor am I familiar with your unique situation. If you have any doubts, you should always consult with your doctor before proceeding. This article is only meant to provide general information.
I’m Not an Athlete, How Did This Happen?
You might have thought that only professional athletes, such as football or basketball players, can damage the menisci, but this isn’t true.
This injury can occur from simply getting in or out of your car, your office chair, or squatting down to pick something up off the floor. While sports athletes DO injure their menisci, you can also experience an acute tear. The majority of injuries to non-athletes, however, are simply the result of degenerative tearing of the meniscus.
You need to know, though, that not all painful knees are caused by meniscal damage.
Is It Meniscal Tear or Sore Knees?
This can be a difficult question, but there are a few ways to help you determine whether it’s a case of meniscal damage or just the usual soreness from overworking the knees.
Symptoms of Torn Menisci
- Swollen knee
- Painful when touched
- Inability to support your weight without extreme pain
- Feeling that your knees might give out or that you might fall
- When bending your knee, you feel that it is catching or locking in place
- Difficulty bending your knee to its full extent or inability to bend it in any manner
If the joint isn’t swollen, doesn’t hurt when touched, or only hurts when you put pressure on it (such as stair climbing), it may simply be sore due to overuse or you might be in the early stages of arthritis.
What is the Range of Motion of Your Knee?
Compare your current condition to your knee’s normal range of movements. If you cannot bend the knee at all or if you experience serious pain, you should seek medical attention.
In most cases, a simple rest is all your knee needs to make a full recovery. Surgery is rarely required to solve this issue.
Treatment for Damaged Menisci
The best treatment for any type of knee pain or meniscal damage is the RICE method.
The RICE method is:
- Rest- Give the joint a few days or a couple of weeks to recoup. When it comes to any injury, time is your friend.
- Ice – Ice packs reduce inflammation.
- Compression- Use an elastic bandage around it to add support.
- Elevation- Prop up your heel and support your hough with some pillows, to keep your sore knees above your heart and reduce inflammation.
Should I Avoid Using My Rowing Machine If I Have Knee Pain?
This would depend on the severity of your symptoms.
Movement of the knees (as much as possible) is good for preventing stiffness due to lack of exercise. Keeping the surrounding muscles strong and flexible is also a good idea because they help to support the joint.
Using your rowing machine is a good way to exercise the painful joint and give the leg muscles strength since it is a low-impact piece of equipment.
Is Rowing Good for Knee Injuries?
Yes, it is! Rowing is low-impact and puts only a minimal amount of strain on the knees!
What Should I Avoid with a Torn Meniscus?
It must be noted here that if you start using your rowing machine and you begin to experience knee pain, or if the joint locks up, you must stop immediately .
Don’t force your body to exercise if doing so hurts you. If the joint should swell again after you exercise, you should rest for another week before trying again.
Will Walking on a Torn Meniscus Make it Worse?
This depends on the person and the severity of the injury. Some people find that they can walk pain-free and that only twisting the knee, such as when you get in and out of a car, causes them to hurt.
Others cannot stand any weight on the leg at all! Listen to your body and stop if you feel pain.
Can You Run Again After a Torn Meniscus?
Many people find that after a few weeks of rest, they can start exercising their legs and running again. If you feel only a mild ache when running but nothing more intense, you should be fine.
The Bottom Line
You can continue to row even with damaged menisci if you do not experience anything more than minor ache or discomfort, and if the joint does not become stiff or swollen after exercising.
My best advice would be to rest the knee for a week or two, then gently give your rowing machine a try.