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Meniscus Injuries Part 3 - Manual Therapy & Exercise

Updated: Dec 5, 2023


The cornerstone of nonsurgical, conservative treatment for meniscus injuries is twofold: pain relief and functional improvement. While many find solace in these interventions, potentially sidestepping surgery, it's crucial to recognize that they might not fully mend a meniscus tear. Given the menisci's limited blood circulation, their healing capacity is often compromised. Moreover, in patients with pronounced osteoarthritis, the meniscus tear might be intertwined with arthritic changes rather than an isolated incident.

Article Index:


Objectives of Manual Therapy

The objectives of manual therapy and exercise for meniscus injuries include:

  • Restoring range of motion and flexibility.

  • Reducing pain and inflammation.

  • Enhancing muscle function, as research indicates that medial meniscus injuries can impact the strength of the quadriceps (especially the VMO), hamstrings, calf, and hip muscles. (1)

  • Preventing flexion and extension contractures. Flexion contractures are the most common type seen with meniscus injuries. If an individual cannot properly straighten their knee, they will struggle to increase knee strength or develop stability in the knee. (1)

  • Improving neuromuscular coordination.

  • Progressively increasing weight-bearing capacity. Gradual weight-bearing with increased joint stress are vital components of effective meniscal repair.


Motion Specific Release

Motion Specific Release (MSR) is a treatment system developed by Dr. Brian Abelson. MSR integrates diverse therapeutic perspectives to resolve musculoskeletal conditions. It follows the EPIC paradigm and integrates areas such as orthopedic and neurological examination, fascial research, kinetic chain relationships, myofascial manipulation, fascial expansions, osseous adjusting, Traditional Chinese Medicine, and functional exercise programs.

Knee Release Protocol - Motion Specific Release

In this video Dr. Abelson demonstrates an effective knee release protocol using Motion Specific Release (MSR) techniques in the accompanying video. These procedures address the localized area of pain and the broader kinetic chain, contributing to a more comprehensive treatment approach.

Increasing Knee Joint Mobility - 4 Point MSR Knee protocol

Effective Motion Specific Release knee mobility procedures are demonstrated in this video, which are extremely effective at addressing the body's entire kinetic chain. The femur, tibia, and patella, as well as a large number of muscles and ligaments, make up the complicated structure of the knee joint.

Note: MSR protocols should only be performed by certified MSR practitioners, and are not for practice by the general public. The videos we provide are strictly used for demonstration purposes only!



A study published in the British Medical Journal found that rehabilitative exercises were as effective as surgery for middle-aged patients with meniscal tears (9).

The following exercise recommendations are intended for those who do not require surgery or have been cleared by their surgeon to perform these exercises.

Initial Phase of Exercise:

  • Isometric exercises for the Quadriceps (especially the VMO): Electrical muscle stimulation can also be used to help increase contraction of the VMO.

  • Range of motion exercises [passive and active if appropriate]: Begin with Wall Slides. Once the patient has achieved 110-115 degrees of knee flexion, Heel Slides can be introduced.

  • Stationary cycling - single leg cycling using only the uninjured leg. This exercise helps maintain muscle strength and function while avoiding stress on the injured knee.

Intermediate Phase of Exercise

The objective of the Intermediate Phase is to return to full weight-bearing on the injured leg and to increase muscular endurance. It is essential to combine soft-tissue mobilization with exercise to prevent scar tissue formation. During this stage, appropriate exercises would include open chain kinetic exercises such as:

  • Limited open chain resisted tubing exercises of the ankles, knee, and hip: These exercises help improve strength and range of motion in a controlled manner, minimizing stress on the injured knee.

  • Stationary cycling with no or only minimal tension: Stationary cycling can begin once the patient attains 115-120° of knee flexion. Ensure the patient's ROM is sufficient, as forcing the motion with inadequate ROM may increase pressure and irritate the knee.

  • One leg stands where the patient alternates standing on one leg for approximately 20 to 30 seconds, then shifts body weight back and forth: This exercise improves balance and weight-bearing tolerance but should only be performed if the patient can bear weight without significant discomfort.


During the rehabilitation of meniscus injuries, incorporating both open and closed chain exercises is essential for optimal recovery. Here are some examples of each type, along with information about when to begin hamstring strengthening exercises:

Open Chain Exercises for Meniscus Injuries:

  • Seated leg extensions: With a resistance band or machine, extend the injured leg from a bent to a straight position.

  • Seated leg curls: Using a resistance band or machine, curl the injured leg towards the buttocks.

  • Straight leg raises: Lying on your back, lift the injured leg straight up while keeping the knee straight.

Closed Chain Exercises for Meniscus Injuries:

  • Wall squats: Lean against a wall with feet shoulder-width apart, then slowly slide down into a squat position, ensuring the knees do not extend past the toes.

  • Mini squats: Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and slowly lower into a shallow squat, keeping your knees in line with your toes.

  • Step-ups: Using a step or low platform, step up with the injured leg, followed by the uninjured leg, then step down in reverse order.

Strengthening exercises for the hamstring muscles can begin when the patient can flex the injured knee to at least 80-90°. This will ensure that the knee is capable of handling the additional stress from the exercises.

Best Meniscus Exercises

The following video give demonstrates some of the common exercises that we prescribe to patients who have had a meniscus injury



In conclusion, understanding and managing meniscus injuries require a comprehensive approach that includes recognizing symptoms, performing a thorough physical examination, and utilizing appropriate diagnostic imaging when needed. Conservative treatments, such as manual therapy and exercise, can be highly effective in addressing pain, improving function, and promoting recovery for many patients. The rehabilitation process should incorporate a combination of open and closed chain exercises, tailored to the individual's needs and progress.

It's crucial to consult with a medical professional or physical therapist throughout the recovery journey to ensure appropriate care and to minimize the risk of further damage. By following these guidelines and recommendations, many patients can successfully overcome meniscus injuries and return to an active, pain-free lifestyle.



Dr. Abelson's approach in musculoskeletal health care reflects a deep commitment to evidence-based practices and continuous learning. In his work at Kinetic Health in Calgary, Alberta, he focuses on integrating the latest research with a compassionate understanding of each patient's unique needs. As the developer of the Motion Specific Release (MSR) Treatment Systems, he views his role as both a practitioner and an educator, dedicated to sharing knowledge and techniques that can benefit the wider healthcare community. His ongoing efforts in teaching and practice aim to contribute positively to the field of musculoskeletal health, with a constant emphasis on patient-centered care and the collective advancement of treatment methods.


Revolutionize Your Practice with Motion Specific Release (MSR)!

MSR, a cutting-edge treatment system, uniquely fuses varied therapeutic perspectives to resolve musculoskeletal conditions effectively.

Attend our courses to equip yourself with innovative soft-tissue and osseous techniques that seamlessly integrate into your clinical practice and empower your patients by relieving their pain and restoring function. Our curriculum marries medical science with creative therapeutic approaches and provides a comprehensive understanding of musculoskeletal diagnosis and treatment methods.

Our system offers a blend of orthopedic and neurological assessments, myofascial interventions, osseous manipulations, acupressure techniques, kinetic chain explorations, and functional exercise plans.

With MSR, your practice will flourish, achieve remarkable clinical outcomes, and see patient referrals skyrocket. Step into the future of treatment with MSR courses and membership!



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