Last Updated on October 9, 2022 by theworldofsleepstaff
Damage to the meniscus cartilage can create pain and swelling in the knee, as well as cause it to stick or pop when walking. All of that can be very painful, so when the meniscus cartilage becomes torn, you may require surgery to remove it.
The steps you take after surgery are crucial and have a knock-on effect when it comes to how fast the healing process takes. One of the most important things you can do is rest and sleep well. That’s because healing is primarily done when the body is sleeping. So asking yourself how to sleep after meniscus surgery is step one to getting back to normal.
That’s what we help you with here. We will show you exactly how you should sleep after meniscus surgery. We will show you the sleeping position you need to use, and the six steps you must follow. All of which will allow you to sleep well and speed up healing.
Disclaimer: Although we share tips here, as always, you must consult your doctor and ask their opinion about what is right for you, as every individual case differs.
But First: What is Meniscus Surgery?
A meniscus tear can occur through regular use and wear on the knee. When this happens it may require surgery. The most common causes for this injury include ageing, sports injury, and twisting or turning the knee. While surgery will not repair the tear, it will remove the damaged piece. Once it has been removed the knee can return to regular use after a period of healing.
Signs of a meniscus tear include pain or discomfort and swelling in the knee after use. It may become difficult to move or may even feel stuck in a set position. Or it may become unstable and you be unable to hold weight without bending or buckling. A consultation with your doctor and a surgeon will determine if your injury requires surgery or can be improved and managed in other ways.
When determining if surgery is required, a doctor will consider your age, how active you are, how much damage has occurred, and what would be required to repair the knee. In a small number of cases the surgeon will choose to stitch the tear and allow the cartilage to heal together, though this is rarely successful. In all other cases the cartilage is removed either partially or completely.
The surgery is completed by freezing the area with local anaesthesia or using general anaesthesia to numb the area and remove any sense of pain for the procedure. Small incisions are made to allow access for the tools needed, and with the use of small precision tools and cameras the damaged meniscus is either repaired or removed. Once completed, the tools are extracted and stitches will be used to close the incisions. Your knee will be bandaged and wrapped to support the joint and stop any residual bleeding.
If surgery is not yet necessary, or you are awaiting a surgery date, there are ways to care for the injury at home. Using ice for up to 20 minutes at a time can reduce pain and swelling. Resting it will improve all symptoms, and keeping your knee elevated elevated will reduce swelling and ensure fluid is drained from the location by gravity. An over the counter pain reliever can reduce pain, and physical therapy can help to improve movement.
How to Sleep After Meniscus Surgery: The Six Steps You Must Take
Sleep is a vital part of the healing process after any injury or surgical procedure. The body does much of its healing during sleep, when energy is refocused from other tasks. So learning how to sleep after meniscus surgery is vital.
As the body rids itself of the anaesthesia after meniscus surgery you may require more sleep for the first few days or even a week after surgery. This is a normal reaction and shouldn’t cause any worry, so allow yourself to get as much sleep as you need.
Below are the six steps you need to take when sleeping after meniscus surgery.
1. Sleep on Your Back at First and Use Support Pillows
Sleeping on your back may be the most comfortable way to sleep, and it’s the safest for your knee after surgery too. Your knee should also be supported and immobilized to avoid the risk of twisting or turning the knee. As doing so would damage the stitches.
A curved pillow (such as a travel pillow) that can wrap around the sides of your knee can offer improved support and will restrict movement. A pillow on each side of your knee will also keep it still and prevent sudden movement that can further damage the stitches or knee. Body pillows or other cushions can be placed on either side of your body to prevent your entire body from moving during sleep and causing a twisting of your knee in the process.
These preventative measures will not only improve comfort but also support your body for a good sleep, improving healing in the process. Practicing sleeping on your back with these support pillows a few weeks before surgery can allow you to be well prepared to sleep this way after meniscus surgery.
If you are unable to sleep on your back there are other options. For example, sleeping in a recliner chair, as this will also limit movement and give you less space to turn or roll during sleep.
Recommended: 30 Tips On How To Get Better Sleep Naturally
2. You Can Side Sleep, But Not Straight Away
You can also side sleep with the correct preparation. To side sleep it is necessary to wait a few days after surgery so sleep on your back at first, as this is the safest sleeping position. Then after an initial period of healing, you can sleep on your side but with the knee that was operated on as the top leg.
You will need to put pillows and cushions around your body and legs to keep them still. Then put a pillow or a knee pillow between your legs to keep the knee supported and cushioned. It will be key to not move around during the night as this can increase the risk of re-injuring the area. It may also be necessary to sleep with a knee brace on.
3. Elevate Your Knee and Leg
Sleep with your leg, and especially your knee elevated. Use cushions or pillows to ensure your knee is elevated higher than your heart, allowing for gravity to help ease the swelling and to maintain the blood circulation that is needed for healing. Compression may also be recommended for sleep. You should follow the guidance of your doctor and surgeon for whether this would work for you.
4. Use Ice Before Bed To Reduce Swelling
It may be worth using ice on your knee before bed to cool the area and reduce swelling that has occurred throughout the day. As you proceed with physiotherapy and home exercises you may find more swelling occurs during the day. So it can be beneficial to treat that swelling before bed.
5. Be Careful When Getting into Bed
Make sure you don’t aggravate your knee at the wrong moment! When getting into bed slowly lower yourself into a seated position on the edge of your bed, keeping your knee straight or slightly bent. Then slide back onto your bed and turn to lift both legs up onto the bed. Put the necessary cushions and pillows under the knee that was operated on and slowly lower it onto the pillows.
6. Use Pain Killers
Pain relievers should be taken as prescribed. As the healing proceeds and the pain levels are lowered, they can be decreased. Taking a pain killer before bed can help to encourage restful sleep.
If you follow the above steps your knee shouldn’t move overnight. So it will be stiff the next morning.
You should therefore prepare a way to get out of bed as easily as possible. This may require a supporting device (like a walking stick) to help hold your weight and keep weight off your knee, or someone to help you.
Begin by moving your knee slowly and follow the advice of your physiotherapist in how to address stiffness in your knee.
How Long Will It Take to Heal?
If the tear is left untreated it is likely to be a permanent injury, which is why surgery is so often the path chosen. There are two types of surgery, the first will see improvement in symptoms within 6 to 12 weeks, while the other will be 3 to 6 weeks. As each person heals at their own speed, the healing process this will be different for everyone, but recovery should start quickly after surgery.
In order to achieve these recovery goals, it is necessary to follow all directions and to ease the use of your knee. Bedrest for a few days after surgery is recommended, in order to allow your knee to heal before it is moved too much. And of course, follow our six steps above for how to sleep after meniscus surgery.
Physiotherapy will improve the speed of healing as well as boost stability and return your knee to being able to bear weight without buckling. This will also occur at different rates and progress depending upon the age of the patient, the size of the rip in the meniscus, and the overall health of each patient’s body.
You will be provided with detailed instructions for aftercare when you leave your hospital or care center. This will include how and when to change bandages, a prescription for pain medication and instructions on when and how to take them, whether or not to keep your knee elevated, and ideas on how to complete that task, and more. Compression may be recommended to encourage circulation which speeds healing. That’s because blood brings the nutrients that are needed to repair damaged cells and help healing.
It is important to book all of the follow up appointments that are recommended both with your surgeon, and your regular doctor, as well as any recommended physiotherapy. As crutches may be needed it is necessary to be fitted for a pair that is adapted for your height. This can be done before surgery to allow you to have them ready when you leave.
Walking after Meniscus Surgery
You will be unable to walk regularly after surgery and will need to use crutches or another walking aid. That’s so your knee is rested as much as possible. Physiotherapy may be required to regain strength in the joint and muscles in your leg to improve its weight bearing ability and range of motion.
How to Sleep After Meniscus Surgery: Our Final Thoughts
While a meniscus tear can cause pain, swelling, limit movement, and cause the knee to be unable to support the weight of a person, there are ways to encourage healing at home.
Using ice to ease swelling and reduce pain, a pain reliever to reduce pain, and elevating the knee can also ease pain that occurs either while awaiting a diagnosis, surgery, or afterwards.
It is important to maintain a healthy diet and ensure that circulation continues so the nutrients needed for healing are available. Compression knee wraps or a brace can offer support to the knee and allow for some walking to continue too.
Gather enough cushions and pillows to support your knee both overnight when you are sleeping, as well as during the day. Try them out a few days before surgery to become adapted to the way that you will need to sleep, and be sure that you have all the supplies that you require.
If you will require a knee brace, compression wrap, or crutches ensure you get them before the day of the operation, so you are able to easily leave the care center. Make sure you will have assistance during the first few days, and then practice getting into and out of bed without help or bending your knee.