Skip to main content

A meniscus tear is one of the common knee injuries we see at Move Strong Physical Therapy. When a meniscus tear happens, you have a difficult decision to make - whether or not surgery is needed. In this article, we review meniscus tears and instances when surgery is needed instead of physical therapy rehabilitation.

What is a Meniscus Tear?

A torn meniscus is a tear in the cartilage of the knee caused by forceful twisting. The meniscus functions to improve the fit between the femur and the tibia, to absorb shock and distribute load in the knee, and to help move lubricating fluid around the knee. A meniscus tear can occur from injury or from degeneration.

Symptoms of a meniscus tear can cause problems leading to painful catching, buckling, and pain along the joint line of your knee.

Meniscus injury and surgery are common, especially among people who play sports, and older adults. 

Your Treatment Options: Meniscus Surgery Vs. Physical Therapy

Although surgery is an option to address meniscus tears, it may not always be necessary. The choice between surgery and physical therapy depends on the type and location of the tear. In some cases, opting for physical therapy can help manage the injury and get you back to pain-free performance.

Meniscus Surgery

Meniscus surgery is an operation to remove or repair a torn meniscus, a piece of cartilage in the knee.The most common procedure for a torn meniscus is knee arthroscopy, a minimally invasive surgical procedure used to further diagnose knee injuries.



Reasons Surgery Isn’t Always Recommended

In some cases, surgery for a torn meniscus may not be needed. This is because pain, in relation to the tear, may be due to other factors:

  • The diagnosis
  • The type of meniscus tear
  • Size of the tear
  • Age
  • Your activity level and physical lifestyle
  • Level of symptoms (pain, swelling)lling, buckling, locking, etc.)


Physical Therapy for a Meniscus Tear

For example, many people with meniscus tears lack motion at their knee, impacting their ability to distribute stress through the joint. In this case, getting more knee motion can help reduce pain without requiring more invasive interventions.

Instead of surgery, physical therapy can help treat a meniscus tear. It is a non-invasive alternative to surgery. A personalized physical therapy program can help strengthen your knee and regain full range of motion.

While physical therapy is often recommended after meniscus surgery, starting physical therapy before a potential surgery could help avoid surgery altogether. Your decision on whether to try PT will depend on the abovementioned factors.

Closing Out: Meniscus Tear Surgery Vs. Physical Therapy

Physical therapy can be a sensible option for a meniscus tear and an alternative to surgery. However, it’s important to remember that each case is different. Ultimately, the decision will be made by you and your physician based on the factors mentioned. 

If you have any questions, the friendly and helpful Massachusetts physical therapists at Move Strong PT are happy to help. Reach out to set up a phone consultation.

Andrew Millett
Post by Andrew Millett
September 6, 2023



We’ve helped many people get out of pain and get back to their lives. Let us help you too! Contact our Hudson, MA physical therapy clinic.

This website does not provide medical advice. Consult with your physician or a licensed medical practitioner if you are dealing with an active injury or seeking medical advice.