Study: Supervised Exercise Can Be ‘As Effective As Surgery’

Sports Illustrated reports that “middle-aged adults who are diagnosed with a degenerative meniscal tear—a common injury caused by wear and tear of the knee joint—should first try physical therapy, recommends new research published this week in The BMJ. Supervised exercise is just as effective as surgery, study authors say, with less risk to the patient and a lower price tag to society as a whole.”

The piece outlines the research, which carries fascinating results:

“Researchers in Denmark and Norway organized a clinical trial to compare treatment with surgery versus treatment with physical therapy. Out of 140 adults with degenerative meniscal tears, half received arthroscopic surgery and were given exercises to perform at home; the other half were prescribed 12 weeks of supervised exercise sessions, two to three times a week.”

“Three months later, the second group actually scored higher on tests of thigh muscle strength than the surgery group. After two years, improvement in both groups was equal: The participants reported similar progression in terms of pain, ability to play sports and participate in recreation, and knee-related quality of life. And although 13 patients in the physical therapy group had eventually decided to undergo surgery, the procedure didn’t end up providing them any additional benefits.”

Study co-author Nina Jullum Kise, MD, an orthopedic surgeon at Martina Hansens Hospital in Norway indicates “that some doctors have begun to recommend exercise over surgeryfor common knee ailments, thanks to previous studies with similar findings.”