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Physiotherapy vs Surgery for a Meniscal Tear

Do you suffer from medial knee pain? One of the most common knee injuries in middle aged adults is a degenerative meniscal tear. The meniscus is a semi-circular disc inside the knee that acts as a shock absorber between the thigh bone and shin bone. Although it can be torn with a sudden twist when weight bearing through the knee, small tears often occur from normal use of the knee.

If you have a degenerative meniscal tear, you might feel pain on the inside aspect of your knee especially with standing or twisting though your knee, swelling or stiffness, and difficulty fully bending or straightening your knee. These symptoms are common with a degenerative tear of the medial meniscus.

In the past, most people were referred for arthroscopic surgery to have part of the torn meniscus surgically removed. More recently, research has shown that there is no additional benefit to having surgery to remove the torn meniscus compared to participating in exercise based physiotherapy. Patients who received physiotherapy saw the same improvements in knee pain and function than those who had surgery. Additionally, they were no more likely to develop osteoarthritis in their injured knee than those who had part of their meniscus surgically removed. This is great news and means most people can avoid surgery for this injury!

Physiotherapy for a degenerative meniscus tear may include:

  • Exercises to improve your knee range of motion and lower body strength

  • Balance exercises

  • Gait retraining

  • Hands on manual therapy to help with pain relief and increase your knee mobility

  • Modalities such as ultrasound

  • Acupuncture or dry needling

A physiotherapist @ St. George Physiotherapy can assess your knee, then create an individualized plan to best treat your knee injury. Doesn't that sound better than surgery?

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