Arthroscopic surgery to trim or remove a torn meniscus — the cartilage that cushions your knees — is the most common orthopedic surgery in the United States. About 700,000 of the procedures are done each year, a 50 percent increase in the past 15 years.
But research shows that it’s often no better than physical therapy at easing symptoms. And in a New England Journal of Medicine study, patients who had sham surgery — in which surgeons made a small incision, then simulated the rest of the procedure — fared just as well as those who had the real deal. Other research shows that arthritis is more likely to develop in people who have the procedure than in those who don’t.
Bottom line: If you’re suffering age-related knee pain and an MRI scan reveals a tear, first try rest, ice, a knee brace, over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs and physical therapy.