A meniscal tear is a common and disabling knee injury affecting many Americans at some point in their lives.
Now, new research suggests that in many cases, exercise may work just as well as surgery to heal the condition in middle-aged people.
Meniscal tears occur when damage is done to the rubbery discs that cushion the knee joint.
According to the European research team, about 2 million people worldwide undergo surgeries known as knee arthroscopy each year — although there’s debate over how valuable these procedures are for meniscal tears.
To help settle the matter, a team led by Nina Jullum Kise, an orthopedic surgeon at Martina Hansens Hospital in Sandvika, Norway, tracked outcomes for 140 patients.
These patients averaged 50 years of age and had degenerative meniscal tears, largely without any signs of arthritis.
Half of the patients performed two to three supervised exercise sessions a week for three months, while the other half underwent arthroscopic (keyhole) surgery, followed by simple daily exercises at home.
After three months, thigh strength improved in the exercise group, but not in the surgery group, Kise’s team reported. After two years, pain, sports and recreation function, and knee-related quality of life were similar for both groups, the findings showed.