Runner Knee Injury- meniscus tear

NT is a 43 year old woman with pain along the inside portion of her right knee. She feels a mild sting in her knee with stairs. In addition she has pain that makes running very uncomfortable. Limiting her exercise for the last 2 months did not improve her pain when she tried running again. In addition she has gained 5 pounds during the last 2 months.

An MRI of her knee showed a tear in her medial meniscus without any significant arthritis. She was prescribed rest, anti-inflammatories, and physical therapy. Her pain did not improve and she still can’t run. She has also developed stomach pain from her anti-inflammatories, a fairly common side effect. Finally her orthopedic surgeon recommend arthroscopy to “clean out” her knee. Is this a good next step for this woman?

The surgery recommended to NT will likely involve cutting out a piece of her medial meniscus. This is a potential problem. Short term she may have some pain relief. Unfortunately, this common surgery will dramatically increase her risk for developing arthritis in that part of her knee over the next 10 years. At that point she will probably then be recommended a knee replacement. The purpose of the meniscus is to help absorb pressure placed on the knee joint. Cutting out this shock absorber leaves the joint prone to progressive damage over time. Prior to going for elective surgery, always make sure you’ve considered other options and understand the short and long term risks of surgery. If you’re unaware of the newer nonsurgical options for a meniscus tear, start doing your research.

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