Are there alternatives to surgery for meniscal tears? A clinical trial evaluates the effectiveness of physical therapy.
Degenerative meniscal tears are a common knee problem that often affects older adults. Traditionally, surgery has been the go-to treatment for this condition. However, a recent study published in JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) shows that physical therapy may be just as effective, if not more so, than surgery.
The study compared the long-term effects of arthroscopic partial meniscectomy, which is a surgical procedure that removes part of the damaged meniscus, with exercise-based physical therapy in patients with degenerative meniscal tears. The study followed 321 patients aged 45 to 70 years over a period of 5 years.
The results of the study showed that physical therapy was just as effective as surgery in improving patient-reported knee function over the long term. In fact, patients who underwent physical therapy had slightly better outcomes than those who underwent surgery.
These findings are significant because they challenge the traditional approach to treating degenerative meniscal tears. Surgery is not only costly but also carries risks and potential complications. Physical therapy, on the other hand, is a non-invasive, cost-effective, and safe alternative.
The study also found no significant difference in the progression of knee osteoarthritis between the two groups. This is important because degenerative meniscal tears are often associated with the development of knee osteoarthritis, which can be a debilitating condition.
So what does this mean for patients with degenerative meniscal tears? It means that physical therapy should be considered as a first-line treatment for this condition. Patients who undergo physical therapy may avoid surgery altogether and achieve similar, if not better, outcomes.
It's important to note that physical therapy is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Each patient's treatment plan should be tailored to their specific needs and goals. This may include exercises to improve strength, flexibility, and range of motion, as well as education on proper body mechanics and activity modification.
The results of this study provide strong evidence that physical therapy is an effective treatment for degenerative meniscal tears. Patients who are considering surgery for this condition should talk to their healthcare provider about the potential benefits of physical therapy. By choosing physical therapy as a first-line treatment, patients may avoid the risks and costs associated with surgery and achieve similar, if not better, outcomes.__________