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Health, Knee pain

Torn Meniscus: Self-Treatment Exercises

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Often, surgery is not the best option – So what should home-rehab exercises look like for a torn meniscus?

In this second post in the series we look at your home rehab programme, covering exercises to reduce muscle spasm, improve balance and strength a well as an effective self-mobilization technique that will help you make big gains.

As we covered in the first post, a torn meniscus is a very common injury and there’s some important points when it comes to anatomy and surgery vs. conservative rehab, so make sure you have a read of that also.

Knee rehab exercises

NOTE: You can now get our comprehensive KNEE Injury rehab guide – a full rehab guide that you can download with the click of a button!

So, here is your self-treatment:

Rehab for a torn meniscus needs to cover four things:

  1. Muscle spasm
  2. Balance and muscle activation
  3. Graduated strengthening
  4. Joint mobility and meniscus healing

This is the order we need to start them in as well as the first step of your rehab is to settle the secondary symptoms, which is mainly muscle spasm and muscle switching off. This initially reduces pain, improves the range of motion and starts you being able to use it more – which speeds up recovery by helping you optimally load the knee.(1)

RICE injury treatment, heal strong and fastStep 1: Ease pain and improve range

First 72 hours:
As with most acute injuries, you need to first look after it, to allow initial healing – basically where the “scab” forms and to allow it to settle down.

Step 2: Switch the muscles back on, decrease spasm and improve balance

After the first 72 hours, it is important to prevent loss of muscle mass and get your muscles switching on again using some simple proprioceptive and stretching exercises:

  • Bosu ball, wobble board ankle and calf re-training rehab quickSingle-leg balance: The knee loses proprioception very quickly when injured (you can think of this as the “feeling” or the balance). So to get it back, you need to challenge your balance.
    • Level 1: Stand on one leg on the floor, when comfortable for 1 minute, progress…
    • Level 2: Fold up a towel and stand on this, when easy for 1 minute, fold it up thicker or
    • Level 3: Either roll a towel up tight or use a Balance Board or BOSU ball
  • calf stretch , soleus, gastroc - self treatment for shin splintsCalf stretch: Hang one heel off a step for 30 seconds at a time. Once per side.
  • Inner range quads torn meniscusInner range quads / Extensions: With knee injuries we lose activation of the distal thigh muscles, just above the kneecap very quickly. This is a nice and easy one (but still very important!). Sitting in a chair, or in bed with a towel under the knee, extend the knee by lifting the foot up to full extension or pain. Repeat this 20 times, every 2 hours.
    • Note: Do not force it, and take it nice and slow

Step 3: Start strengthening the knee

This is where it finally starts getting less boring! Start step three when it is comfortable to do the above exercises and remember not to push into pain.

  • correct squat form, strong and safeSquats. Yes these are great for getting your leg stronger again but it is important to start at the right level for you and progress from there through the following:
    • Level 1, Wall squats: Lean against a wall, with your feet shoulder width apart and out from the wall. Slide down the wall 1/2 range and no more. Hold this for 5-10 seconds and repeat 10 times. Tip: make this a bit easier on your knee by having a large round ball or Foam Roller between you and the wall.
    • Level 2, Double Leg Squats: Again, fee shoulder width apart. squat up and down within the comfortable range. repeat 10 times for 3 sets.
    • Level 3, Single Leg Squats: Now, standing on one leg, perform squats, within a comfortable range, 10 reps, 3 sets. Note: with this one you won’t be able to squat very low, and that is perfectly fine!
    • Technique: To take pressure off your knees, don’t let your knee/s go forward past your toes and it helps to stick your bum out further!
  • Cardio: Keep your fitness up and boost healing by utilizing:
    • Biking on a Exercycle ideally is great once you have over 90 degrees range in your knee
    • Swimming is a good one for un-weighted exercise, just stay away from breaststroke
    • Walking, as able. When you are able to walk pain-free for 1/2 hour, you can try a short jog and build from there.

Step 4: Gain full knee range

MTSS shin splints self treatmentThere are three things that will limit range mainly at this point: Joint stiffness, muscle tightness and the knee still healing.

The knee should continue healing, as long as it isn’t overloaded, so let your body get on with that.

Muscle tightness can be addressed by stretching out muscles such as your calf, hamstring and quads and also by foam rolling.

Last but not least, joint stiffness can be helped by self-mobilization to improve it’s bending and get the joint oiled-up. See the below video for a short and easy demo:

YouTube player


Calf Pain, Lower limb, running

3 Best Calf Exercises: Keep your calf pain-free

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calf exercises for strain rehabCalves are a huge problem if they are not looked after – and often they are ignored until something goes wrong. Why not treat your calves right from the start to prevent injury and improve your performance. It is easy to do with the calf exercises I am going to show you today!

Far too often I see runners that have felt calf tightness or a little niggle and kept pushing through – only to wind up with an injury, stopping them completely! You need to run smart.

Calf Muscle Endurance is the key:

Yes, your calves need to be strong, but more importantly, the calf muscle needs endurance! If your calves lack endurance they are prone to any number of injuries including:

This is because as we run, walk and just stands on our feet throughout the day our calves are always being used and they slowly start working less and less – leading to other muscles compensating and bones being over-stressed. Men on average take around 7000 steps per day and woman 5000 – now that is a huge amount of work that your calves are doing!

Of course preferably everyone should be doing 10,000 steps per day for optimal health – 10000 step challenge.

This enormous workload that your calves are doing is why calf pain often comes on part-way into a run or walk or towards the end of the day, when they start failing.

Why do you need to exercise your calves?

As we mentioned earlier, calves take an enormous amount of load with every step we take. They are impacted as we go about our day as they support our lower body. To Prehab (preventative rehab!) your calves we need our calf exercises to improve:

  • Calf muscle endurance
  • Calf muscle length
  • Ankle and calf neuro muscular control

So here they are – Calf Exercises:

1. Calf stretch and roll:

calf stretch , soleus, gastroc - self treatment for shin splintsAction: hang your heel off a step as shown and hold for one minute each side.

Note: Static stretching (holding a stretch) before exercise isn’t recommended – It is best to do dynamic stretching or foam roll the calf as below.

You can also give yourself a good deep tissue massage with a Foam Roller:

MTSS shin splints self treatment

Action: as shown place the other leg on top to get more weight through and roll for 2 minutes each calf at least. When you find sore, knotty or tight spots, stick on them for a little longer slowly working into it.

2. Heel raises: 

Action: Standing beside a wall with one finger on it for balance, do 30 single leg heel raises on each side, performing one every second. Two times daily.

Note: If this causes pain in the Achilles or you have had or have Achilles pain – then you should do eccentric heel raises:

Action: go up with both heels (double heel raise), take the weight off the unaffected side and then lower slowly with the affected side/ side you are strengthening. Do 3 sets of 15 twice daily and if you have Achilles trouble then you need to do this for at least 12 weeks to rehab it well. (study)

3. Balance retraining:

Bosu ball, wobble board ankle and calf re-training rehab quickTo retrain balance and neuromuscular control through not only your calf but your whole lower limb (functional exercises have a great cross over into your sport) there is a number of tools you can use:

  • Bosu ball as shown in the image
  • Wobble board
  • Or you can fold up a towel and to make it tougher roll it up tightly and double up.

So there is no excuse for not doing this exercise as wobble boards are very cheap and affordable and you will have plenty of towels at home. This will not only improve calf control but also decrease the chance of and rehab sprained ankles and knee pain.

Action: Standing on one leg (don’t let your legs touch) hold it for one minute each leg, every day.

How to make it harder:

  • Add in hand weights, punching above your head
  • Add in heel raises
  • Add in single leg squats (obviously, don’t add these all in at the same time!)

Doing these three easy calf exercises every day will, reduce your injury risk, rehab current injuries and niggles and help you PERFORM BETTER, which is a huge bonus right?

Keep up the good work,
let me know how you get on and share it around!

You may also like:

Iron out your running: Easy tips to run faster, easier and free

Quick balance and stability test

 How Flip-flops make calves tighter and feet sore


foot pain

Plantar Fasciitis: Heal Fast and strong

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Note: We have an updated version of this post HERE AND our new Comprehensive Plantar Fasciitis Rehab Guide

Plantar fasciitis is the most common cause of heel pain in adults and accounts for 10% of running injuries. I will show you the WHAT, WHY and HOW to treat it yourself!

How common is it really?

  • Accounts for 15% of all podiatry visits
  • Is bilateral (in both feet) in up to a 1/3 of cases!
  • 10% of running injuries

That’s enough stats to show you just how common this is and how important it is that you can treat and rehabilitate this yourself.  Unfortunately it is often looked at as a trivial injury and if not treated right can last for months to years, really stopping you doing what you love.

So what is it?

The plantar fascia is a strong band of connective tissue that starts at the bottom of your heel  and runs along bottom of the foot, attaching into the toes. It is important for:

  • Maintaining your arch when walking and running – tracking from your heel to the toes it stops them spreading apart as your land on and push off your foot.
  • Stabilises your foot: as you push iff your toe the fascia is put on more stretch, raising up the arch into a more stable position so you can propel yourself forward!
  • Provides proprioception – feedback to your brain about how your foot is moving
  • Facilitates good foot motion/bio-mechanics – Check out this post for the plantar fascia’s role in running and walking.

Plantar fasciitis is degeneration and a small amount of localised inflammation of the proximal fascia (the part closest to the heel). The most common area of pain is near the origin of the fascia at the base of the heel. Fasciitis happens when the fascia is overloaded, whether this be from:

  • Tight calves or Achilles.
  • Sudden increase in activity or training.
  • Poor footwear e.g. worn or over-flexible running shoes.
  • Hard training surface.
  • Arch being too high or too low
  • Or increased weight.

Plantar fasciitis treatment and exercisesThis overload produces excessive stress on the fascia leading to a lot of tiny little tears in the fascia. This causes your body to go into protective mode, starting an inflammatory (healing) reaction, which makes the fascia thicker, less flexible, more sensitive AND painful. If this is not treated properly, it gets stuck in a chronic inflammatory phase and can be very frustrating.

Symptoms – to see if you do have it:

  • Pain upon waking and taking your first few steps –This “start up pain” is because your plantar fascia and calves have been in a contracted, shortened position all night.
  • Sharp stab or dull ache in your arch or at the heel.
  • Pain after long period sitting.
  • Pain that eases gradually in a walk or run as it warms up.

The big question, so how do you get rid of it?

It is important to address all aspects contributing to  plantar fasciitis in order for it to heel strong, these include:

  • Foot wear
  • Calf tightness
  • Training volume
  • Inflammation and dysfunction of the fascia
  • Lower limb and hip muscle weakness

And this is how we you will do it:

Rehab exercises for Plantar fasciitis:

plantar fasciitis treatment1. PF rolling: In order to re-align the fibers in the plantar fascia and lengthen it out, it really needs a good deep massage. This works best with a hard ball (I use a lacrosse ball). The other option is to freeze a small water bottle full of water and roll this under your arch (the ice gives great pain relief at the end of a day!)

Roll the bottom of each arch between the heel and toes (not under the heel) for 2 minutes.

This should be done at least 2 times daily.

calf stretch , soleus, gastroc - self treatment for shin splints2. Calf stretch: Drop your heel off the edge of a step and hold it for 1-2 minutes.

This needs to be done 3 times daily (the more the better).

3. Hip strengthening: Often the foot gets more force put through it due to poor hip strength and control.  Do this Quick test to see if you have hip weakness, and if you do, then you should also seriously rehab you hips also.

4. Ice: For ten minutes at a time after a long day, exercise of when hurting.

Taping: Taping to support the arch is great for unloading the plantar fascia. Using rigid strapping tape strap from the outside of the foot to the inside, pulling it tight up the arch. See this video for an example.

Footwear: This video shows how the plantar fascia works during walking and running. You can see from this that if your toe was pushed up less when Walking (In case you didn’t watch it: As your heel comes off the ground the toe is pushed up – putting your fascia on more stretch) there would be less repetitive stress on the fascia. So wearing supportive running shoes with arch and heel support and ditching minimalist of over flexible shoes will really help this. Wearing flats all day also aggravates the fasciitis as this puts the calf on stretch which wraps under the heel and pulls on your fascia – so having some heel support is great (but not high heels!)

Orthotics: Orthotics do help this condition a hue amount if your problem is with poor foot bio-mechanics – Head along and see your local Physio or Podiatrist for a foot and gait assessment.

Training volume: it is important to decrease the load for a short time to decrease the overload on the fascia while you sort out the contributing factors (above). This may involve:

  • Walking or running halve your normal distance and then increasing this by 10% per week.
  • Decreasing training on hard surfaces and hills/steps.
  • Adding in time to stretch and warm up.
  • Remember the training rule that you should not increase your distance by more than 10% per week – this is often a big cause.

This needs to be followed to 6-12 weeks for best results and when, better you should keep looking after it so that it doesn’t happen again. Keep stretching your calf, keep your hips strong and don’t have sudden increases in activity – build up to it.

You will also benefit from:

The importance of core stability on lower limb injuries

Shin splints: What why and how to sort it

Please like, comment, share and let me know how you get on.

More reading: A good scientific paper if are detail orientated.


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