50+ Health Conditions, Aging, Blog, Degenerative Diseases, Joint Pain

Needing Knee Surgery? Think Again – Study Finds Most Knee Surgeries Are Not Necessary

14308297 - male athlete on floor clutching knee and hamstring in excruciating pain on white background
14308297 – male athlete on floor clutching knee and hamstring in excruciating pain on white background

As we age, problems with our joints become more and more likely, as years of wear and tear chip away at them. One of the most common joint problems associated with aging and wear and tear is knee injury. Millions of people go through knee surgery each year in hopes of prolonging the health of their knees.

The most common and disabling knee injury that many Americans deal with some time in their life, is a meniscal tear, which happens when the rubbery discs (meniscus) that cushions the knee joint incurs damage. As a result, a surgery called knee arthroscopy is performed on over 2 million people every year. Whether or not this procedure is effective in the long term, is up for debate.

Now, a medical team of researchers out of the Norway, has done a study that suggests that exercise may work as well or better than surgery to heal meniscal tears. The study was recently published on July 20 in the BMJ.

The team, lead by Nina Jullum Kise, an orthopedic surgeon at Martina Hansens Hospital in Sandvika, Norway, tracked 140 knee patients. These patients were an average of 50 years old and had degenerative meniscal tears, with little signs of arthritis.

The patients were divided into two groups. Half of them went through with arthroscopic (keyhole) surgery followed by simple daily exercise at home. The other half did not do the surgery, but had two or three supervised exercise sessions a week for 3 months.

At the end of the research period, it was noted that those in the exercise group had much improved thigh strength, while the surgery group showed no difference. However, two years later, the level of pain, function and quality of life related to the knees, was similar for both groups.

According to the researchers, 19% of the patients in the exercise only group went on to have knee surgery during the follow up period in the study. However, the surgeries did not appear to provide them with additional benefits.

The conclusion Kise’s group reached was that middle-aged patients with meniscal tears should consider exercise therapy instead of invasive surgery.

This study certainly makes us think about how commonly surgeries are prescribed for all manners of injuries and ailments today, when often the body can heal itself if given time and good care.


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  1. bsfurg
    February 18, 2017 at 7:34 pm


  2. Elizabeth Gualtier
    February 21, 2017 at 12:32 am

    Would love to know the exercises they recommend.

  3. Grammaof4
    May 10, 2017 at 7:10 pm

    Torn meniscus in right knee (tore when I was 16), no cartilage in left knee (bone on bone for 14 years now) and I’m not even 60 yet. Refusing surgery for a couple of reasons. 1. I don’t have time for surgery and being laid up for a minimum of 6 weeks while the surgery heals, and 2. I’m done with having a doctor cut on me. My orthopedic surgeon kids me about the arthritis acting as the cartilage, but even after surgery, the chance of arthritis returning is like 85%.
    Exercising the legs at this point is interesting, but doable using lower weights or just getting out for a short walk. I agree with the statement that staying away from prescription drugs and allowing the body to heal itself is the best option. I haven’t taking any pain meds in over 5 years and I can feel the strength to my knee returning, slowly but returning.

  4. Robert Pollard
    May 10, 2017 at 7:58 pm

    IF you can, squats done right are the best. I did say DONE RIGHT. Breaking at the hip first and not allowing the knee to move forward but just a little, is the best form. If you want to see how it’s done just look up videos on how USAPL Power Lifters do their squats. If they are competing, like I did for 3 years, they are doing it with excellent form. At 166 lb body weight I was able to do 446 lb squat at 49 years old. I don’t compete anymore but when I feel sharp pain through one of my knees, usually the left one because I snowboarded for 6 years, I squat to completely stop the sharp pain.

    • lojo40
      May 10, 2017 at 11:32 pm

      Knee squats are what got me in trouble with my knees – since I quit squats and started taking glucosamine and chondroitin, the pain went away.

      • Robert Pollard
        May 15, 2017 at 2:05 pm

        I’m sorry you have knee problems but I maintain you are not doing them correctly. Do what helps but if you want to strengthen your knees, squats done correctly are the absolute best way. Since I learned how to do them correctly from my competition days, I have helped 40 – 50 people get a handle on their knee issues with squats. Some people never learn the correct form and blame squats for it.
        BTW, I have never heard of knee squats as that’s not what they are designed to strengthen but they absolutely do help done correctly.

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