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Physiotherapy Equally Effective as Surgery for Knee Osteoarthritis, Study Shows

A very common knee condition that is also associated with knee osteoarthritis is the meniscal tear, wherein the meniscus or the shock absorber of the knee is torn or damaged through the normal wear and tear. This can be very painful and may cause stiffness and swelling and a sensation of having the knee locked. Due to the severity of the disorder, the traditional method of treating this condition is through a surgical procedure. But while surgery remains a viable option, similar results may be achieved through physical therapy, according to a study that was published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Brigham and Women’s Hospital Study

A team of researchers composed of surgeons from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and from six other big hospitals carried out a study with the objective of comparing physical therapy and surgery in the treatment of meniscal tear of the knee. Involved in this study were 351 men and women, all diagnosed with meniscal tear and knee osteoarthritis. All these patients were advised to undergo knee surgery after the evaluation of their MRI.

Half of the subjects were asked to complete a six-week program of physical therapy while the remaining half went on with the surgical procedure which is called arthroscopic partial menisectomy. Those belonging to the physical therapy group engaged in a program designed to ease inflammation, improve the range of motion of the knee, and restore the strength of the knee muscles. Under the surgical option, damaged components of the meniscus were removed and the remaining parts smoothened.

Similar Improvements Reported by Patients

Two assessments were made, with the first taken after six months while the second after one year. After evaluating the data, the researchers were able to come up with the conclusion that improvements were similar for both types of interventions. This was true after the first six months and after follow up made a year after.

Knee Osteoarthritis Patients May Now Have Two Options

The outcome of this study was very revealing even to orthopedic surgeons. According to Dr. Jefferey Katz of the Harvard Medical School, they now have a better picture of this condition, unlike before where they really were not sure what was best for the patients.

With the encouraging results of the study, healthcare providers may now advise patients that both surgery and physical therapy for knee osteoarthritis and meniscal tear are good options. On the part of the patients, they can now have an alternative that is conservative and non-invasive. This would be an advantage to the patients since they may now have a treatment option, through physical therapy, that may not involve possible complications.