Meniscal tears happen. A lot. In fact, arthroscopic partial meniscectomy (APM) is one of the most frequently performed procedures in orthopedic surgery. But just because you have a meniscus tear doesn’t mean that you need surgery.

A randomized clinical trial just published found that physical therapy (PT) is an effective alternative to surgery for improving self-reported knee function in adult patients with nonobstructive meniscal tears. In the study, patients who had physical therapy had nearly equivalent outcomes in pain and function after 24 months compared to patients who had surgery.

Our society has long believed that surgery is the quickest and most effective treatment for a variety of conditions. Often, this is due to a lack of education about the options available and the efficacy of those options. At Step & Spine Physical Therapy, we are on a mission to help educate patients on their options so they can make more informed healthcare decisions.

Surgery comes with risks, and it is essential for patients to know their options before making any healthcare decisions. One study found that having meniscal tear surgery tripled one’s risk of needing a knee replacement in the future. These findings are significant for patients as the information helps them make more informed healthcare decisions.

Long-term Results of Surgery Versus Physical Therapy

There are six randomized clinical trials that in the past have found surgery to be the more effective treatment at a 6-month follow-up. However, those studies did not look at the longer-term effects of surgery versus PT. Long-term evidence now shows that physical therapy is just as effective, without the additional risks that come with meniscal repair surgery.

Know Your Options for Meniscal Repair

Knowing that you have options is the first step on the path to recovery. Depending on the type of meniscal tear, surgery may be the better option. To determine the most appropriate treatment, schedule an appointment with your doctor. Taking time for an initial evaluation with your physical therapist can also help you make a long-term plan for recovery.   

Physician referrals are not necessary for initial physical therapy evaluations. Depending on the results of the evaluation, the physical therapist can provide recommendations for further medical assessment or a physical therapy plan for care.