Knee Pain: Surgery Or Therapy?

    A man on a basketball court floor holding his leg and wincing in painMany adults suffer from knee pain, and wonder if therapy or surgery is the best way to treat it. Are you one of them? Are you desperately in need of relief, willing to try anything to regain your mobility, even if it means surgery?

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    Well, you might not want to rush into knee surgery. Physical therapy can be just as good for a common injury and at far less cost and risk, the most rigorous study to compare these treatments concludes.

    Many middle-aged and older adults have severe knee pain due to a tear in the meniscus, a crucial support structure in the knee that is often damaged in people with knee osteoarthritis.

    Each year in the United States, more than 450,000 arthroscopic surgeries are performed to treat meniscal tears, but scant data exist to help doctors determine if physical therapy or surgery is the best treatment for a patient, according to the researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

    Their study of 351 patients — all over age 45 with knee pain, meniscal tear and knee osteoarthritis — suggests that physical therapy may be equal to surgery for some patients.

    Participants were randomly assigned to be treated with either arthroscopic surgery or physical therapy. When they were assessed six and 12 months later, both groups had substantial and similar improvements in movement.

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