When It Comes to Meniscal Tear Is Surgery Really Necessary?

anatomic drawing of a meniscal tear

A new study that was published in the BMJ magazine on July 20th concluded that surgery is not essential when it comes to meniscal tear. It seems that the very common condition can also be treated with physical exercise, causing less short-term damage than surgery.

What is the Meniscus?

The meniscus is a fibrocartilaginous structure shaped like a crescent. It is present in the knee, sternoclavicular, temporomandibular, acromioclavicular, and wrist joints. However, generally, the term meniscus is used to describe the knee cartilage which can be the medial meniscus or the lateral meniscus.

The function of the meniscus is to reduce the friction created by movement. The small excrescences of the tibia and femur meet at the joint level, the meniscus helping them achieve mobility while dispersing the constantly shifting weight of the body.

What is a Torn Meniscus in the Knee?

A meniscal tear, or a tear of the meniscus, is a rupturing of the menisci, the strips of cartilage in the knee. When you hear your doctor talking about a meniscal tear, in most cases he or she is referring to a meniscus injury located at the top of the tibiae.

How Do Meniscus Injuries Occur?

Meniscal tears are one of the most common afflictions of middle-aged Americans. One can rupture the meniscus by performing innocuous activities like squatting, lifting, even walking.

However, the disorder is even more frequent in the case of sports aficionados. The action that provokes the trauma is often a twisting movement forced on the knee while the leg is bent.

There is also something called the “wear and tear,” which is a degenerative tear that appears in elderly patients.

Meniscal Tear Symptoms

Frequent signs of a meniscus tear are swelling and knee pain. The symptoms worsen when the knee is exposed to more weight (for example when the person squats or runs). Other signs are joint locking, a sensation that the knee is giving away, and a clicking feeling.

Is Meniscal Tear Surgery Really Necessary?

The researchers in the cited study gathered a sample of patients that were suffering from a meniscal tear and divided them into two categories. The first group received surgical treatment for their condition, while the second was advised to make use of physical therapy to repair their damaged knees.

The participants from the first group, the one that underwent surgery, were advised to complete a set of simple exercises on a daily basis in order to help the ligaments heal properly.

The volunteers from the second group attended supervised sessions two to three times a week for a period of three months.

After the three-month period had passed, the members of the second group showed considerably higher levels in thigh strength than the ones in the surgery group.

However, two years after the treatment was applied, both groups registered similar life conditions when it came to recreation functions, pain, and sports.

Image source: Wikipedia