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How I Recovered After a Meniscus Tear Without Surgery

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Whenever I tell people I injured my knee six months ago, most of them think it's due to my atypical daily hobby: powerlifting. Yet my meniscus tear, which still affects my mobility today, wasn't due to my hard lifting regimen -- it was thanks to a freak accident while hiking.

The details are fuzzy, but here's how it happened.

My husband and I were visiting Colorado, all the way from our native Minnesota, to see a concert and get in a good hike. I had never hiked before, so we visited Rocky Mountain National Park for a couple of easy (yet challenging) hikes. Midway down a trail, my foot caught on a rock and I stumbled -- and then fell -- awkwardly on my leg. There wasn't any severe pain during my fall, so I didn't think much of it.

But the next morning, my knee was screaming in pain -- and the instability in my knee was later a clear giveaway to a physician that I had a meniscus tear, or a tear of the cartilage in my knee.

If you suffer a meniscus tear, recovering can be challenging. For mild to moderate tears, simple rehabilitation and rest of the knee can help alleviate most cases. If you have a serious tear, however, surgical treatment, such as knee arthroscopy, is almost always required, according to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons.

In my case, it was determined my tear wasn't serious enough to require surgery, but I had a long road of recovery and rehabilitation ahead of me. To heal from my meniscus tear, here's what I did:

1. I followed the R.I.C.E. method

R.I.C.E. is short for rest, ice, compress, and elevate, which is a common method used to treat most sports-related injuries. To cut down on the pain and inflammation, I rested my knee as much as possible, applied cold ice packs to my knee several times a day, and wore a compression bandage to prevent additional swelling. By week one, the pain in my knee had subsided dramatically, although mobility and flexibility was still an issue.

2. For extra pain alleviation, take pain medication

If you're not prescribed a pain medication, you can also opt for an over-the-counter medication, such as ibuprofen or aspirin. Make sure to discuss with your doctor beforehand if these medications are safe to take.

3. Stay mobile and flexible

The worst thing you could do after a meniscus tear is stop moving, so try to stay active after the initial pain subsides. I stayed active by walking and practicing bodyweight squats to regain strength and mobility in my knee. To this day, I haven't been able to return to the amount of weight I used to lift before the injury, but I'm getting there -- better to build up strength slowly than risk injury. Your physician may recommend different exercises, so always listen to his or her recommendations first.

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