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What is a Meniscal Tear?

A meniscal tear in the knee is an injury to the cartilage that is responsible for absorbing weight at the knee joint. Tears and rips can happen in cases of unexpected trauma including twisting, bending, and over stretching of the knee. In addition, tears can also develop as a result of degenerative changes with time. Meniscal tears can limit the ability to continue with active activities such as twisting, squatting, sports, or performing tasks at home and at work.

Can Physical Therapy Help?

New research conducted at Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH), demonstrates that  physical therapy  may be just as clinically effective as surgery for many patients.  These findings were presented at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons and posted online in the New England Journal of Medicine and at the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases.

Physical therapy is supported by growing evidence as an optimal alternative to surgical intervention for the right patient. Treatments that reduce inflammation as well as the pain caused by the meniscal tear can be effective when treated by the right type of physical therapy. Modalities like ice, compression, and electric stimulation are frequently used to lessen pain and acute swelling. Once the swelling is decreased, the emphasis is then on improving joint mechanics. Later, manual therapy care is utilized to restore range of motion and progress the muscle flexibility. The treatment then progresses to therapeutic exercises that addresses muscle control, agility, and balance which can reduce the type of injuries that lead to the tear.

How do I know if I should try physical therapy or surgery first?

You should discuss your options with your family doctor, orthopedic surgeron, and physical therapist to see what might work best.  Some of the factors that needs to be considered are: the mechanism of injury, history of progressive symptoms, a thorough clinical examination, diagnostic studies (xrays, MRI), and your goals/aspirations for your future activities. The decision frequently comes right down to you and your goals.  In the vast majority of the cases, physical therapy is used as a first line of treatment since the surgical approach will always be there as an option.

The biggest take away here to is that it is important to learn all you can about your injury, the treatment options, and what the recovery entails. In most cases, a custom Physical Therapy Treatment program combined with an effective Home Exercise Program can help you get back your activity safely.  

Learn more details about meniscal tears HERE.  

Emery Physical Therapy in Mt Prospect has provided knee rehabilitation for the Mt. Prospect and Des Plaines region for over 17 years with great success.  If you have any questions or would like to learn more about your options for conservative care with physical therapy, email as at info@emeryphysicaltherapy.com.