Mend Physical Therapy Blog and Injury Information

No Differences Between Physical Therapy And Surgery For Patients With Traumatic or Non Traumatic Meniscal Tears

February 26, 2024

Meniscal tears, either traumatic or degenerative in nature, are a common source of knee pain in patients presenting to our Boulder Physical Therapy and Lafayette Physical Therapy clinics.  Degenerative tears most commonly observed in middle or older aged adults have become a recent topic of interest in the media and medical research.  Authors and researchers have not seen a significant difference in outcomes between patients treated with surgery or Physical Therapy for degenerative tears.

These outcomes have led many groups to recommend reducing the utilization of this procedure in favor of more conservative treatments such as exercise.  Interestingly, more recent research, although less overall studies, have shown a similar outcome in the evidence for traumatic knee meniscal tears.  A recent randomized controlled trial was published which sheds further light on this clinical question regarding traumatic meniscal tears.

Damsted and colleagues published the findings of their randomized controlled trial on either Physical Therapy or surgery for knee meniscal tears (JOSPT. 2024).  Authors randomized 121 patients (age 18-40) with a MRI confirmed meniscal tear to either surgery or a 12 week supervised exercise program.  They reported 69% and 78% of patients in the exercise and surgery groups, respectively, had traumatic meniscal tears.  No differences in knee outcomes were found at one year after randomization suggesting Physical Therapy may be tried first prior to surgery for meniscal tears.

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