I am currently getting weekly treatments for my knees. I strtetched a ligament in one and tore the meniscus in the other, same time. After two years still painfull and not fully healed. The knee with the stretched ligament will 'give out' resulting in a couple of nasty falls.
After three treatments I would say there is about a 75% improvement, which is great.
The only issue I have is that when I exercise, which for me is just stretching and cycling, the pain returns, and the knee will have a tendency to give out again.
I enjoy exercising daily to reduce stress and lose weight, but should I knock it off until the the knees are completely healed? I can afford three more treatments under my health plan.
I would think that light exercise would help my kneees but in my case, since I have continued to exercise since the injuries, it seems to have delayed or setback the healing process.
What if I took up something completely non impact like swimming?
Thanks for your thoughts!

Bud -

You are like many of my ortho patients.  The situation is much like that old joke, "Look before you leap, but he who hesitates is lost."  Your knees will only get better and be pain-free if you do some exercise, but doing the exercise results in pain. So, let's talk about this in general terms.

You didn't say which meniscus (medial or lateral) or which ligament.  Let's assume the more common situation of the medial meniscus.  Having torn one of those myself, I know that the pain can suddenly put you on the ground.  If you got by without having surgery, that is great.  The meniscus being cartilage heals very slowly (if at all.)  In terms of which ligament, I am going to assume one of the cruciate ligaments.  

Exercise and maintaining strength is important for recovery, although too much of the wrong kind of exercise can set you back a bit.  The quadriceps muscles are the most important ones to keep strong for knee health and to preclude re-injury.  Depending upon what specific injury you sustained, there are a variety of exercises to strengthen and maintain the quads.  You can probably find some physical therapy oriented videos online to guide you in this.

If you are bicycling, over the years I have seen many knee injury patients do better without clip-on pedals as they rehab.

The knee is the most complex joint in our body, so you have to proceed carefully.  Another old joke is that number one cause of right knee pain is left knee pain.  Don't forget to do the same exercises on both sides.

Since you asked a question in the acupuncture forum, I assume that your treatments involve that modality.  Most acupuncturists received training in treating osteoarthritis of the knees, and seldom in the diagnosis and treatment of complex injury.  So I can offer some guidance here.

First, a commonly overlooked treatment is that of reducing tension in the ilio-tibial band (the ITB.)  If this is too tight, the knee joint can be stressed.  The acupoints here are GB34, GB33, and ST36 with sliding (NOT stationary) cupping along the ITB.  You could also use a foam roller but that often does not reduce the tension sufficiently.

You asked about swimming.  My feeling is that swimming is great, however it is not going to keep your knees strong.  Things like walking (or using a treadmill set at a 2% grade), careful leg extensions with low weight, partial body-weight squats balanced against a wall are all things that will help.  Patience is the most crucial.  I got through my knee injury without surgery, although it took over two years.  I stopped running, judo, and bicycling during this time, and worked on simple slow light exercise until I could do modified forms of tai qi.  For me, the real learning and rehab occurred in my mind as I felt strength and ability return slowly over time.  I had not realized how much actual fear could be unconsciously associated with a knee injury.  Sometimes, it is that fear around an injury that makes us attempt rehab too aggressively.

I wish you well in your challenge.

Malama pono - - -

Mike Zanoni


All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts


Michael M. Zanoni, MS, LAc


I am knowledgeable about severe and chronic pain from musculoskeletal or neurological conditions, especially trauma, headache, and fibromyalgia. I can provide guidance that will assist healing and recovery after illness or surgery. I have a particular interest in long-term chronic conditions that are becoming progressively worse or intermittently severe (such as viral hepatitis, Crohn's, or Takayasu syndrome.) I have extensive experience treating endocrine disorders, such as diabetes or thyroid problems, where the primary condition is being monitored by a Western-trained physician, and cancer where there are specific treatment goals other than cure (e.g., decrease of pain; reduction of side effects of radiation and chemotherapy; lessening of edema; palliative treatment of associated conditions.) I do not treat or answer questions about infertility, ALS, or senile dementia.


I have practiced Oriental medicine for over sixteen years in a variety of settings. Much of my practice has centered around a busy clinic specializing in severe long-term chronic pain conditions and palliative care. For several years I worked in a hospice program. I also established a non-profit community clinic providing care to under-served and homeless patients. My work has found me in an HIV clinic in San Francisco, a busy private practice in Oregon, to traveling on muddy 4-wheel drive roads to see dying patients. I now teach acupuncture and Oriental medicine at a school in Hawaii.

My training was at the American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine in San Francisco where I received a masterís degree in Chinese Medicine. I have current board certifications in Oriental Medicine, Acupuncture, and Chinese Herbology from the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. I also have certifications in Chinese tui na bodywork, Physical Rehabilitation Training, and biofeedback. I am licensed to practice acupuncture and Oriental medicine in Hawaii, Oregon, and Washington. I also have BA, MS, and PhD degrees in subjects not directly related to Oriental medicine.

©2017 All rights reserved.

[an error occurred while processing this directive]