Sham surgery may be better than Menisectomy for Knee Pain

A partial menisectomy has been one of the most commonly recommended surgeries for people suffering from knee pain. A meniscus tear is likely when there is medial or lateral pain along the joint line, there is pain with twisting, and the knee locks up, gives way or buckles when walking. In December of 2013 a double blinded study from Finland was released in the New England Journal of Medicine that compared a group who had the typical surgery to a group that had a fake surgery where they were arthroscopically probed but the torn meniscus was left as it was. The participants that had the meniscus cleaned up and smoothed out had better results early on, but by 12 months there were no differences between the two groups.


This suggests that maybe you should give a second thought to whether you go under the knife to fix your knee pain. An earlier study by a different group compared physical therapy to arthroscopic surgery and found no difference at 6 and 12 months between the two groups. These two research studies may be pointing more patients towards physical therapy to deal with their knee injuries. It is more cost effective than the $3,000 to $6,000 sticker price for the menisectomy, and also less traumatic to the body. Of course, surgery will always have its place, especially in cases where the meniscus is flapping over on top of itself or ligaments are also torn.

Physical therapy can reduce swelling and pain, strengthen the muscles around the knee and help you to correct any biomechanical faults that may have been the cause of the damage to the meniscus. This is one of the main reasons that the research studies are finding surgery coming up short: it may clean up the injured tissues for a moment, but more damage is likely to occur if one continues to use their knee in the same way.