How to Sleep After Meniscus Surgery

Sleeping through the night without any underlying conditions can sometimes prove to be difficult. Add in a torn meniscus, and you may find sleepless nights even more commonplace than ever before. Your knee can be stiff, swollen, and achy. You may find it difficult to fall asleep due to a consistent aching pain or the inability to find a comfortable position. 

Knee pain and locking may have you waking up periodically throughout the night. This can occur before surgery, after surgery, or even both before and after surgery. Anti-inflammatory medication may help in the short-term, but a memory foam pillow made specifically for your knee is an organic and long-term solution to sleeping with knee pain. 

What Is the Meniscus?

The meniscus is a crescent-shaped area of cartilage located just above the tibia. We have two menisci in our knee joint, a medial meniscus and a lateral meniscus. The medial meniscus is located on the inner side of your knee, while the lateral meniscus is located on the outer side of your knee. The meniscus acts like a cushion for your knee joint. It is a shock absorber and stabilizer. The meniscus reduces friction during knee movement and is a vital structure to the knee joint function.  

Signs of a Torn Meniscus

The signs and symptoms of a torn meniscus can vary in each individual. These can include a popping sensation when the injury occurred, swelling, and stiffness. Additionally, pain and difficulty with joint movement can occur, and there is a possibility of the knee giving out. 

The pain might not be too bad at first, but as inflammation begins and continues to increase, pain tends to increase as well. In fact, many people may not even be aware that something is wrong with their knee at first, as they are only experiencing a moderate amount of pain. However, if this pain gets worse and doesn’t go away, this is a big sign that something is really wrong with your knee. 

These symptoms can be made worse by twisting, pivoting, and squatting motions. Continuing to participate in high levels of activity following a torn meniscus injury may lead to worsening of symptoms and can even lead to a more complicated surgery and longer recovery. So even though it’s tempting to just play through the pain— it’s really not worth it. 

For some, there may be a feeling of locking or that your knee is stuck. Essentially, there can be a block in the motion of the knee. Many have trouble fully extending or fully bending their knee following a meniscus tear. 

For a medical professional to diagnose a torn meniscus accurately, they will ask about the details of the injury, perform a physical examination, and take diagnostic imaging tests. These imaging tests may consist of X-rays or an MRI. The X-rays will help to rule out any fractures that may be present, while the MRI scan will give the necessary information and details to diagnose a meniscus tear by visualizing the cartilage directly. 

What Does Torn Meniscus Treatment Entail?

Once a diagnosis of a torn meniscus is made, treatment options will be suggested to you based on the size and location of the tear. Your age, level of activity, and past related injuries may also impact which treatment options will be suggested by your doctor. If the meniscus tear is small and on the outer portion of the knee, it may heal on its own without surgery. 

However, the inner portion of the meniscus has poor blood supply and cannot heal on their own. Tears located towards the inner portion of the meniscus are often recommended for treatment with surgical intervention. If surgery is not indicated, you can facilitate recovery with RICE. RICE stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation.

Resting consists of limiting activities and staying off your feet. Ice helps to reduce pain and swelling and should be done periodically throughout the day. Compression and elevation also assist in decreasing swelling. Compression can be done by wrapping the injured knee with an elastic bandage, such as an ACE bandage. Be careful not to wrap the bandage so tight as to cut off the blood supply to your knee. 

Lastly, keeping the injured knee elevated means to raise it above your heart to efficiently reduce swelling. The use of anti-inflammatory medications, such as Advil, Aleve, or Motrin, can aid in the recovery process of both surgical and non-surgical treatment, as it decreases pain and swelling. However, as with many medications, these medicines can have side effects, so be sure to use them as instructed and only when necessary. With the advice of a doctor and a physical therapist, non-surgical treatment may consist of stretching and strengthening exercises. 

When surgery is indicated, there are quite a few surgical options the surgeon will consider. These options consist of meniscus removal (meniscectomy), meniscus repair, or even meniscus replacement. 

Today, all meniscus surgeries are typically completed arthroscopically. This refers to a minimally invasive surgical procedure on a joint that is performed using an arthroscope, which is a thin, long tubular instrument with a camera on the end. Meniscus repair is attempted when possible, as the goal of meniscus surgery is to preserve the meniscus. Meniscus repairs are limited by the extent of the tear itself. This surgical procedure has good post-surgical results but requires longer recovery time. 

Meniscectomy is the removal of the damaged meniscus. This surgical procedure has proven to have good short-term results but tends to result in arthritis in later years. Meniscus replacement is usually considered for young, healthy, and active patients. However, there cannot be any advanced degenerative changes to the articular cartilage. 

While not all surgical cases or procedures are the same, these procedures generally begin with a femoral nerve block, general anesthesia, or regional anesthesia. A camera and small instruments are then placed through multiple tiny incisions to visualize and repair or remove the damaged meniscus. With these surgeries, most patients are able to return home the same day as the completed surgery. 

What Is the Recovery Process?

Like the surgery itself, the recovery process is different for everyone. However, getting a good amount of rest and closely following the post-operative instructions given to you by your surgeon are crucial to a speedy recovery process. 

A knee immobilizer brace is frequently utilized following a torn meniscus surgery. This type of brace keeps the joint stable and protects the healing ligament from any potential strain and heavy loading. 

Physical therapy is often indicated, as well. The goal of physical therapy usually consists of getting the knee fully extended, decreasing swelling, and regaining muscular strength and control. Generally, the range of motion is focused on first without any weight-bearing. Typically, a stationary bike is utilized to ease into increasing range of motion. This is a safe way of increasing your range of motions at your own pace. 

As range of motion and strength are regained and continue to improve, the patient is weaned off their knee brace, and low-impact activities are encouraged. The assistance of a physical therapist may aid in this recovery process, and continuing exercises to regain range of motion and strength on your own time is crucial to fully recovering and returning to your regular physical activities.

How to Sleep After Meniscus Surgery?

Sleeping proves to be difficult after surgery. It is recommended that you keep the knee elevated while sleeping on your back. This can be a difficult and uncomfortable task, but with the use of the Memory Foam Knee Pillow, it’s definitely more comfortable and more doable. 

The Memory Foam Half Moon Bolster Pillow can also aid in sleeping on your back post meniscus surgery. This pillow can be placed behind your back or under your knee. It could also be used in conjunction with the Memory Foam Knee Pillow if back and knee support are both needed. The Memory Foam Half Moon Bolster Pillow can be extremely helpful to someone who usually does not sleep on their back, but is required to post-surgery. 

Additionally, if you absolutely cannot sleep on your back, you can sleep on your non-surgery side, placing a pillow in between your knees. The Memory Foam Knee Pillow can also be used in this sleeping position, aiding in comfort and stability while keeping your knee out of harm's way and elevated. This knee pillow consistently provides not only comfort but support to your knee, two things you will not only want but need following meniscus surgery. 

Finally, our Memory Foam Knee Pillow helps to keep your back and hips aligned as you sleep, maintaining good sleeping posture all night long thanks to an adjustable and removable strap. This pillow will not only help with sleeping after meniscus surgery but for maintaining a general sleeping posture that previously led to waking up with aches and pains all over your body. 

Meniscus surgery is typically an outpatient procedure that is simple for a trained orthopedic surgeon, but recovery can be brutal for the individual with the meniscus tear. You feel uneasy and hesitant during the recovery process. You want to challenge yourself in physical therapy, but this can lead to discomfort and pain. After surgery or after a long day of physical therapy, your knee can be achy and swollen, making sleeping, a typically easy task, quite burdensome. However, with a lot of rest and the right products to improve your sleep and rest, you will be well on your way to making a full recovery.

Sources:

  1. https://www.sports-health.com/sports-injuries/knee-injuries/causes-meniscal-tears
  2. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/torn-meniscus/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20354823
  3. https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/tw4354spec#:~:text=As%20soon%20as%20possible%20after,the%20injured%20or%20sore%20area.

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