3 Tips for Better Sleep After Meniscus Surgery

Leaving the comfort and attention you get in the hospital after arthroscopic surgery can create a bit of separation anxiety. What now? you ask as you stand up on your crutches for the first time.

Come nighttime, you’ll be wondering how you’re expected to get any shuteye.

Among the other causes of discomfort that accompany the post-op experience, getting some good rest after meniscus surgery can be a challenge. The pain itself is usually a factor, ranging from dull and tolerable to pulsing and intense. Finding the right position is difficult, too.

Yet solid rest is one of the most important parts of healing after a meniscus tear. Here are a few tips to make sure you continue getting your eight hours after surgery.

1. Keep your bandages clean and dry

Before you go to bed, check the dressing around the surgery site to make sure everything is copacetic. Keeping your dressing in tip-top shape—clean and free of moisture—is essential to avoiding infection, and before bed is a good time to make bandage check and re-dress (if necessary) part of the routine.

2. Sleep on your back with the leg slightly elevated

This is especially important during the first few days after meniscus surgery. Keeping the leg elevated (but not bent!) encourages healthy circulation, which helps keep pain and swelling in check. This position also helps you avoid bumping the incision site, which can lead to bleeding and infection.

3. Roll over to the “good leg” side

Sleeping on your back can be an adjustment in and of itself. If you do choose to sleep on your side, roll to the non-surgery side and put a pillow between your knees. Use this position only if you’re having no luck getting to sleep on your back, and remember not to bend the knee.

3. Try breathing exercises to help relax

When you’re having trouble sleeping after meniscus surgery, try taking deep breaths to the very bottom of your lungs. Inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth. Repeat ten times at your own pace. Aside from helping you relax, deep breathing exercises encourage circulation and, in turn, reduce pain and inflammation.

Finally, remember that sleep is essential to your recovery. If you are sleeping a bit extra after surgery, good! That means your body needs it. After meniscus surgery, just having energy enough to care for yourself throughout the day will be challenging at first.

But your body also needs adequate rest to heal the surgery site and rebuild damaged tissues. And once your meniscus rehabilitation program begins, rest will become even more important. Be sure to make sleep quality very a priority.

The tips above are a good place to start.

How Should I Prepare for My Session with AlterG?

We get this question a lot: how do I prepare for my session on the AlterG Anti-Gravity™ Treadmill? What should I wear? What do I need to bring along?

While there are some special considerations, working out on an Anti-Gravity Treadmill isn’t terribly different from any other physical therapy session. Still, we decided to poll our team members and resident AlterG experts to bring you our top five tips to make the most of your experience on the Anti-Gravity Treadmill.

1. Wear fitted shorts, nothing baggy or loose

To make the magic of precision unweighting happen, you’ll have to wear a special pair of shorts. Our special neoprene shorts are a lot like common compression shorts, except they have a go-around zipper that zips you in the machine and creates an airtight environment around the lower body.

To make sure you’re as comfortable as possible, we recommend that you wear fitted clothing under the AlterG shorts. We recommend spandex shorts—stay away from pants, baggy basketball shorts, and workout skirts. This way, you can take the neoprene shorts on and off easily and remain comfortable throughout the session.

2. Footwear is totally up to you

While you might have to wear special shorts on the Anti-Gravity Treadmill, your choice of shoes is totally up to you. What would you wear running on any other treadmill? Or outside? We recommend a good pair of running or cross-training shoes, but you have options. You can even go barefoot if that’s your preference (though it’s not something we typically recommend.)

3. Remember that you’ll be zipped in

Once you’re all suited up and zipped into the treadmill, you won’t want to have to get in and out. So, here are a few tips:

  • Hydrate and eat lightly before your session
  • Go to the bathroom before your session
  • Bring headphones, your phone, a water bottle, and a sweat towel and keep them within arm’s reach during your session

4. You’re going to break a sweat

Workout temperature is one of the ways the Anti-Gravity Treadmill is different from other treadmills. Because you’re lower body is zipped into an airtight chamber, things tend to get a little sweaty during the session. As such, we recommend staying hydrated before and during your session. And wear two top layers (a tank top and a long sleeve workout shirt, for example) so that you can peel one off should you need to.

5. Be sure to bring your favorite tech

Far be it from us to disrupt your usual workout routine! Feel free to bring along your own fitness or heart rate monitor, which you can wear during your session. Headphones and music are a must. The good news is that the Anti-Gravity Treadmill now includes handy holsters for things like phones and water bottles.

Easy peasy, right? Follow these five expert tips and your session on the AlterG Anti-Gravity Treadmill will be a breeze. Oh, and if you’re looking to book a session on the Anti-Gravity Treadmill for your own physical therapy needs, click here to find an AlterG near you.

5 Surprising Ways Fitness Can Impact Your Life

Everyone knows fitness can boost your stamina, tone your body and lengthen your lifespan. There are other effects of it, both good and bad, however, that are often misunderstood. Here are the surprising ways regular exercise can impact your life.

1. Different sleep schedule
Fitness can either improve or worsen your sleep cycle; it all depends on when you exercise. A morning or afternoon workout is great for tiring out your muscles and forcing them to crave the restorative nature of sleep once bedtime comes around. An evening run, in comparison, can interrupt your circadian rhythm by raising your heart rate, blood pressure and internal temperature at an inopportune time. Bedtime is when your body begins to slow these systems down so exercise can confuse your brain into feeling awake. Try to keep your workouts at least three hours before bedtime so your body has enough time to wind back down for sleep.

2. Personal grooming
For better or worse, physical activity can affect your grooming habits. On the positive side, a high fitness level can help circulate nutrients in order to clear and brighten your skin. Extremely vigorous workouts and tight ponytails, however, can cause strain on hair follicles and even lead to hair loss. To avoid noticeable damage, make sure you’re not overworking your body every day of the week. Take a day or two between especially tough exercises to try some low impact workouts in order to encourage muscle and hair root recovery.

3. Hormonal changes
Ever heard of runner’s high? To those who don’t enjoy running, it may sound like a myth, but physical activity can actually make you happier. Exercise regulates hormone levels which can improve metabolism and lower stress levels. It also causes the body to release feel-good neurotransmitters like serotonin, endorphins and dopamine to boost mood shortly after moderate exercise. Be sure to keep your exercises consistent, intense and different in order to keep your hormone balances healthy and boosted.

Keep in mind, though, that your body does need to rest occasionally. Overtraining can actually cause more fatigue and stress, throwing your hormonal balances off kilter. Listen to your body: if you start to feel too sore or too tired to exercise, take a day off.

4. Changes in intimacy
Regular exercise can improve intimate relations in more ways than one. Physical activity boosts blood flow and reduces stress which can improve stamina, performance and interest in the bedroom.

It’s important, however, to keep an eye out for overtraining again: it doesn’t just affect your stress levels. Overworking the body can lower testosterone levels and ultimately decrease libido in both men and women. If you experience this, you may be pushing your body too hard. Try including a rest day or two in your weekly schedule. If you have issues that continue despite changes to your workout routine, consider speaking with a doctor about prescriptions that can help boost female libido or treat erectile dysfunction.

5. Mental stamina
A fit body leads to a healthier mind. Regular physical activity increases blood flow to the brain improving mental processes and boosting overall brain function. While all workouts will have a positive effect on the brain, aerobic exercise has been found to have the most impact on mental acuity. Try to include exercises like running, cycling or swimming that get your heart rate up to around 150 bpm. It’s also helpful to listen to music or podcasts while working out for further mental stimulation. Consider fast-paced playlists or health-related podcasts, like Nike’s Trained to distract yourself from the monotony of exercise, improve your performance, and further work out your brain.

It’s important to be sure you understand the role working out plays in your life– both the good and the bad. The key is to strike a good balance between healthy workouts and strenuous exercise. Be sure to listen to your body and understand how your routine may be helping or hurting you so you can update your lifestyle accordingly.

How Long Does It Take To Recover From Meniscus Surgery?

For such a small part of the body, the c-shaped piece of cartilage between the tibia and femur bones play a large role. This piece of cartilage, known as the meniscus, serves as both a stabilizer and shock absorber for the knee. And when you injure your meniscus, you know. The question is, what happens when a meniscus injury requires surgery, and how long does it take to recover?

READ: Meniscus Repair Rehabilitation Protocol by AlterG

Common Causes of Meniscus Injuries
Before we get into care, let’s talk about cause. A sudden stop and turn, an awkward twist or landing—all of these can cause a meniscal tear. Meniscus injuries crop up most often during contact sports, such as football, soccer, and hockey.

However, meniscus tears can also result from heavy lifting, pivots and turns (think: basketball, volleyball, and the like), as well as osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, and other conditions that come with age. Causes vary. Here’s what recovery might look like.

What to Expect After Meniscus Surgery
After a meniscus injury, physicians use MRI to determine the severity of injury and whether or not surgery is required. Typically, anything Grade III and above will require surgery (though not always). It all depends on the extent to which the injury is likely to heal on its own. For those injuries that do require surgery, here’s what to expect afterward:

  • Rest, healing, and recovery time: Immediately after the injury, patients will be put into RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) protocol alongside pain and inflammation medication as needed. Though the surgery to repair a meniscus tear alone is not terribly long, the recovery time can last anywhere from three weeks to six months for a full return to activity.

    As with any injury, recovery time for meniscus surgery will depend on the severity of the surgery (full removal or repair, for example), location of the injury, as well as any other damage that was done to the knee. Rehabilitation time will also vary accordingly.

  • Crutches, a brace, and a slow return to weight-bearing: After surgery, most patients will be on crutches, wear a brace, or some combination of both for at least a couple of weeks. This helps eliminate impact on the knee to allow the repaired tissue to begin healing and reduce the risk of re-injury.
  • The physical therapy program: After an initial recovery period, most patients will begin a physical therapy program to start a gradual and progressive return to regular activity. This includes a gradual return to weight-bearing activities. The integrity and regularity of this program will directly impact the patient’s recovery time, and may include the following focus areas:
    • Stabilization
    • Flexibility
    • Strength
    • Endurance

Shortening Recovery Times with Precision Unweighting
Once a patient is cleared to return to weight-bearing activities, their physical therapist will tailor the duration and intensity of their protocols depending on the severity of the meniscus injury.

Aside from traditional protocols, many physical therapists are now adding unweighting activities, such as pool therapy or tools like the AlterG Anti-Gravity Treadmill™, to re-introduce walking and running motions while limiting injury risk. How? By adding weight-bearing in smaller, tolerable increments and controlling those increments precisely.

To learn more, read the medial meniscus tear case study by AlterG.