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July 27th, 2011
08:01 AM ET

Will my meniscus tear heal without surgery?

Every weekday, a CNNHealth expert doctor answers a viewer question. On Wednesdays, it's Dr. Otis Brawley, chief medical officer at the American Cancer Society.

Question asked by Gloria from San Antonio, Texas

I just learned I have a tear in my meniscus. Can this heal any way other than surgery?

Expert answer

The meniscus is a crescent-shaped pad of fiber and cartilage. There are two in each knee sandwiched between the tibia (bone of the shin and lower leg) and the femur (the bone of the thigh or upper leg).

Their purpose is to distribute the force of weight placed on the knee while walking and running. The meniscus stabilizes the knee during rotation, and lubricates the knee joint.

A meniscal tear is a very common injury. Traumatic tears occur most often from twisting motions commonly found in soccer, football, basketball and other sports. Older patients are more subject to degeneration of the meniscus and can be prone to tears with minimal twisting or stress.

There may be little or no pain at the initial injury and athletes often continue playing after a meniscal injury. Within a day or so after the tear, there is usually pain, swelling and stiffness of the knee.

A large tear can impair the smooth bending motion of the knee and cause locking, catching or "giving out" of the knee. A smaller tear can be perceived simply as instability of the knee.

A health care provider may make a presumptive diagnosis through history and physical examination or may do imaging with ultrasound or magnetic resonance imaging.

Some patients may also get the definitive diagnosis through exploratory arthroscopy, which is a surgical procedure in which a scope is placed in the knee allowing the surgeon to directly see the meniscus.

Initial therapy of a torn meniscus in a stable knee involves avoiding things that cause pain. One should apply ice to the knee 15 minutes every four hours and elevate the knee.

Crutches and a leg cuff may be needed to enable walking without pain and protect the knee from unnecessary bending and twisting. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen, are also useful.

After the initial inflammation subsides, exercises to strengthen the quadriceps and hamstring muscles of the upper leg are usually prescribed. This is best done under the supervision of a physical therapist.

Conservative therapy with muscle strengthening is frequently all that is needed for minor tears in which good knee function returns as inflammation subsides.

The meniscus has very little blood flow, and it often does not heal. Some patients getting conservative therapy for an old tear may have an occasional knee problem and may eventually choose to have surgical treatment.

Candidates for early surgery are patients who have persistent difficulty after the initial inflammation subsides. These patients are often unable to bear weight, have restricted knee movement, have continued pain or have other knee problems such as ligament damage. These patients generally have larger, more complex tears.

The meniscal surgery may be a repair of the tear or removal of part or all of the meniscus. The operation is most often done by arthroscopy, but in some instances has to be done through an open procedure with a larger incision.

Long-term, patients with untreated tears of the meniscus or who have removal of part or all of the meniscus are at increased risk for osteoarthritis.

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soundoff (116 Responses)
  1. TJ

    Big, small world. I am from San Antonio and have just discovered I have a meniscus tear also. I've been told by several people (medical professionals and patients) that surgery is the best option and that the recovery and rehab time is minimal compared to other knee surgeries/issues. Good luck in whatever treatment you choose.

    July 27, 2011 at 08:54 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Megan

      I tore my meniscus twice. I had surgery both times. It was a pain to rehab since I was an athlete but it was better than an ACL tear, which my doctors believed would happen with the way it tore. Good luck.

      July 27, 2011 at 10:19 | Report abuse |
    • Jim

      TJ...i just picked the first post to respond to this article....I too have had a tear in my left knee...what hasn't been mentioned is the other issue if you let it go without repair for too long...pearlization....it is what is sounds like...a little bit of the tissue rips from the meniscus and turns into a "pearl" inside your knee...rolling around tearing other tissue and then before you know it...MORE problems...when surgery is imminent, get it done and rehab the knee.......why did God make us so vulnerable to injuries here?......Take care of your knees.....take care all

      July 27, 2011 at 11:02 | Report abuse |
    • Ag

      Some months ago i had some knee pain while playing football/soccer,the local doc said it's from growth and that i should rest it some time,i returned after one month and i felt good.After about one month when i returned from a grill on my bike and it was heavy raining i was driving very fast and i think i twisted my knee and i remember pain right than and i had pain while i was sleeping that night and when i woke up, i had pain.I went to a specialized doc and after testing me he said that i've torn my meniscus and that surgery might be a option or the only one,and advised me to go do an MRI.I stopped playing soccer and
      i feel better.I did an MRI and they told me that my initial pain that was some months ago might have been from extending my ligaments and that the injury was still there and that my medial meniscus has a small tear.Than the doc said that i should rest my knee for 1 year and let it heal cause i'm still young and there is still hope and come back after 1 year.I don't have symptoms or ever had like i can't bend my knee or so or even swelling...I hope it goes all well and without surgery.

      September 5, 2013 at 15:19 | Report abuse |
    • Sheryl contival

      I had mencus tear since july nothing helps I hurt all the time. My knee lock cant straighten iti think I need surgery can't do anything but rest always swollen and a burning in the insid of my knee.

      April 1, 2017 at 16:22 | Report abuse |
  2. Runner1

    I had 2 horizontal tears within 18 mos. and was on crutches. I found a surgeon who uses platelet rich plasma therapy injections for these injuries. PRP involves drawing your blood, using a centrifuge to extract growth factor and platelets from your blood, and injecting them into the affected joint. I returned to running within 3 months with the newer injury healing to almost 100% and the older one to 65-70%. It's still working after 2 years.

    July 27, 2011 at 08:55 | Report abuse | Reply
    • tpase

      I have a bucket handle tear and am considering prolotherapy. have been through 2 knee surgeries (acl reconstruction, and artheroscopic clean up of scar tissue) and i would rather exhaust every other option before going in and damaging the mechanics of my body further. sorry to sound bitter, but honestly, man cannot expect to get in there and "fix" things without throwing other things out of whack.
      I want to be able to heal well and use my knee for a good many more years (mid-30's now) and so I am very interested in prolotherapy. was it hard drawing 20cc of blood?? anybody else with prolotherapy experience?

      December 20, 2012 at 23:32 | Report abuse |
    • Claudia B

      Are you still running? Ran 4 marathons in my 50's, but now in my 60's have a meniscus tear – mid portion of the medial meniscus and subluxation of the mid portion also thinning and bowing of the ACL. It sucks – I walk, but that's about all. The ortho said no surgery because then it would be bone on bone and we would be looking at a total knee replacement.

      October 15, 2013 at 19:43 | Report abuse |
  3. Kleentx

    When I broke my right toe in early 2008, the "boot" the ER gave me to wear was too heavy. Trying to walk with the boot (I work full-time) eventually created a tear in the meniscus of my right knee. My Dr did an MRI and found it. I opted for the arthroscopic surgery and had it performed a couple of weeks later. I have to admit that the initial recovery from surgery was fairly minimal, but full recovery has not yet been achieved. I still cannot have that knee bent for a long period of time (as in a sitting position). However, walking and going from standing to a sitting position is now pain-free.

    July 27, 2011 at 09:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Kel

    I tore my meniscus in high school, from marching band, actually. I ended up having the arthroscopic surgery, and did physical therapy three times a week for 2 months. It helped, but you HAVE to continue to do the knee strengthening exercises after you've finished physical therapy.
    Overall, I'd suggest surgery. It was an outpatient procedure for me, and I was only on crutches for 5 days or so.

    July 27, 2011 at 09:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Kevin

    Had surgery for a torn meniscus and was back in the gym the next day working upper body. Had full ROM within 3-4 days (by my first day of PT). I waited two years to have the surgery and kicked myself for doing so. I felt like I had a new knee within days. Anyway, it won't heal, fragments may shift around or "get out of the way" for a bit but you aren't healing.

    July 27, 2011 at 10:06 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jarryd

      You're saying your knee won't heal? I twisted up my knee a couple years ago and it locked up. Had a chriopractor pop it back into place. I was going to do the MRI but I didn't have any insurance at the time, I was a fresh out of college. I was able to walk and it was sore so I continued ibuprofen and ice. Today it doesn't give me much pain, but aches every now and then and kind of hurts when I bend it with pressure on it (lunges). I haven't tested its strength yet as far as jumping and running yet because I'm afraid of what might happen. I just went in for a doctors apointment yesterday with an orthopedic surgeon (finally have good insurance) and he said he doesn't think its anything serious and told me to take anti-inflamitorys for the next 3 weeks 3 times a day to see what it does. Haven't had an MRI yet but not sure if it's even worth getting one now. I have full range of motion, but it pops in the morning, almost feels like it is out of place still at times. Not sure what the deal is.

      February 7, 2013 at 17:15 | Report abuse |
  6. Mike

    I've torn it in both knees. One I had fixed the typical way; arthroscopic surgery where they go in, trim off the flap, and smooth everything out. I was back walking w/o crutches in 2-3 days, and back to working out and playing sports in about 10 days.

    The other involved more damage and instead of cutting out the torn part; it was sutured back together. The recovery from doing this type of repair is much much longer and more involved. It took me a solid 6 months before I was 80% of what I was before the surgery; and close to a year to be back 100%. But the stability of this knee is 100x better than it was before my surgery. The recovery from getting the meniscus sutured back together is more than getting an ACL reconstruction (which I had done 2 years later on the same knee, it was discovered to be torn during the first surgery, we just didn't fix it during that surgery).

    July 27, 2011 at 10:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. charlie

    I tore it in right knee about a year ago and decided against surgery because of no insurance and concerns about infections after surgery. Initial pain went away after 3 weeks and I'm now able to walk normally without pain, but cannot run without pain and if a put any weight on it while the knee is bent (like a squat or getting on the floor) then I hurts for a few days almost as if I had just torn it again. i'm considering surgery in the next few months to take care of it.

    July 27, 2011 at 10:19 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Nishant

      Hi Charlie – Did the surgery work for you?

      November 13, 2017 at 09:50 | Report abuse |
  8. Byrd

    My Chiropractor has a Laser that she used within three days of my Knee injury. My pain level went from 10 to 5 in one ten minute treatment. Two doctors had suggested I needed an MRI and probably surgery. They both now suggest I continue the Laser treatment. I am over 60 and have been dealing with the injury since Nov 2010. I Have a pain level around 2 when I overwork now. I believe I have had 8 treatments and I feel noticeable relief after each treatment. I might live long enough to need surgery?? Try the Laser! I can run!

    July 27, 2011 at 10:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Dan

    Slightly tore my right meniscus in high school doing cross country running and had occasional lock up episodes (trick knee) since then. Then one day after college (when I still thought I was young) I went surfing big pre-hurricane waves in Florida. I tore it big time when I wiped out on a sand bar. I ignored it for a few years but had frequent lock ups which were quite painful during the lockup but I would get it unlocked within a few minutes. One day I was alone offsore 15 miles out in the Gulf of Mexico fishing when it locked up and I could not get it to unlock! I had to pilot the boat 15 miles to land, hop to the truck on 1 leg and load the boat up onto the trailer with one good leg. I finally got it unlocked when I climbed into the truck. I went to the doctor the next day and went the arthroscopic route. I had multiple tears in multiple directions. Healing time was pretty quick although the doctor warned me never to run long distance again. I ignored his advice and every time I tried to run several miles a day for several days it swelled up like a baloon. After having to have it drained a couple of times I had to quit running. I can't run for a long time anymore without further injury. Other than that I can play a few sets of tennis, ride a bike, scuba dive, ski, kneeboard etc. as long as I don't overdo it. My advice to anyone is get it fixed soon after the initial injury and don't aggrevate it like I did.

    July 27, 2011 at 10:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. ceecee

    Thank you all for the stories. I'm having knee problems right now. Sometimes exercise makes it feel better. Losing weight hasn't been mentioned and even ten pounds can make it easier on the knee.

    July 27, 2011 at 11:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. meme assassin

    Yes. Surgery avoided with lots of bike riding (I used to ride 26 miles a day when I was in college, proper bike fitting a must), stretching (hams and quads as mentioned) and PROPER knee exercises (especially rotating the knees over the toes with hands held relaxed over the knee caps), NOT machine quad extensions!!! I had surgery recommended three times (after x-rays, MRIs etc.), never did it and now walk, ride play b-ball golf, backpack, etc. Some occasional minor swelling and knee popping but nothing major. It is important to note (as stated) that there are vascular (which will heal) and avascular (which will heal much more slowly or not at all) menisci. Search the best medical sites for more detailed anatomical info but I think that even in the case of avascular meniscus tears (such as I had) there is hope.

    July 27, 2011 at 12:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. John

    My wife's ex-doctor told her she had a miniscus tear and that surgery was her only option. And that she would never dance or exercise again.

    As he told her, I could see dollar signs in his eyes. I felt he needed the down-payment for a car or something.

    He was also wrong. It has been 25 years and my wife is fine and has taught fitness classes for years.

    Doctors would like you to view them as "Gods." But despite their sometimes massive egos, you need to do your own thinking. It is your body not theirs. They have no skin in the game. Every inch of it is yours.

    July 27, 2011 at 12:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Steve

    It would be nice if the "Expert" would actually answer the question instead of cutting and pasting generic information.

    July 27, 2011 at 12:53 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Chartreuxe

      In that case the answer is no, it won't heal and the knee will never be normal again. The tear will always be present. It will wear a groove in the bone. If this condition goes on uncorrected, the patient will develop a limp from which permanent back problems can result. Arthritis will develop in the damaged knee from constant inflammation.

      July 28, 2011 at 16:15 | Report abuse |
  14. NancyY

    I tore mine a few years ago. I went to three different doctors who all said I needed surgery. Since my dad was terminally ill, I opted to do physical therapy at that time. Physical therapy was expensive and not helpful. Months passed and I kept getting around better and better. Fast forward three years, I went another doctor (now that I had much better insurance) to see about if I still needed surgery, since I still don't run on it. The new doctor said if I had went ahead previously with the surgery my knee would have been basically ruined. He gave me one of those syscort shots and it's nearly back to 100%. So glad I waited, seems like the previous three doctors were only seeing $ signs.

    July 27, 2011 at 23:38 | Report abuse | Reply
    • AH

      Hi NancyY

      what is a syscort shot?

      Thanks

      December 4, 2014 at 08:40 | Report abuse |
  15. BillNY

    Went to Dr. for"sore knees" 2000. He sent me to an othro surgeon. MRI showed both knees had torn meniscus and would need surgery. Asked my GP if there was anything else I could do? He said since I wasn't playing pro sports, lose a few pounds and start walking. Save surgery for a last resort or if it impinges on quality of life. I ride my bike, hike my property and walk all over. Occasionally need to wear a neoprene brace when I over do it but no major problems since.

    July 28, 2011 at 11:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Henny Weissman

    about a year and half ago, my knee started hurting. went to doc and he xrayed, and advised me to use heat,and if
    it got worse to come back and have an MRI. Went back a year later, MRI showed a meniscus tear. Scheduled surgery
    as it was very painful. That was in April 2011 and now in July after 3 month of recuperation and now 2 months after
    a corisone show, I am beginning to feel as I did the first time I visited the doctor. So, I am not certain that surgery is
    the answer. HW

    July 30, 2011 at 10:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Cynthia

    I have recently torn the meniscus in both my knees. I found a great website http://www.kingbrand.com – they have ColdCure and Blood Flow Stimulation Therapy Wraps- they are my saving grace! I used the ColdCure wrap when I had alot of pain and swelling... and once that was all under control I used the BFST wrap. This wrap is amazing. I used it 3-4 times a day for approximately 30 minutes each treatment... and I am 99% better in a matter of 4 weeks... this product is amazing. I would reccomend it to anyone!
    – try it for yourself .. hopefully it will help someone else like it helped me!

    February 16, 2012 at 09:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Doug

    For the past six months my right knee has occasionally buckled, but usually I could catch myself. Three weeks ago it buckled (hyperextended) to where I could not catch myself. I was in moderate pain. However, four days later my knee and leg became swollen to twice its size. I went to the emergency room. The Dr. said to relieve the pain he would remove some of the fluid. At this point the pain was a 15 on a scale from 1-10. Three novicane shots and two pain killer shots later, he was unable to remove any fluid. Then he gave me an I.V. to give me more pain killer and anti-inflammatory. He tried again and could not get any fluid, with the pain still unbearable. He said I should go to the Orthopedist the next day. I did, x-ray showed small amount of arthritis, but nothing to be concerned about. She tried to remove fluid from my knee as well. And she could not get any. She then gave me a cortisone shot. She stated maybe the fluid buildup was dried blood therefore not capable off being taken out by needle. She scheduled an MRI. I had that a couple days later. When I met with the doctor for follow up on the MRI, he said there was a small tear in my meniscus (lateral I believe) and that there was no swelling. However, I could see that there is still swelling and when he asked me to extend my leg, I couldn't fully extend it and there was a good amount of pain. He also said there was a bakers cyst on the back of my knee, but that is of no worry. The doctor said to do physical therapy. Everyday at some point my leg hyperextends, Iwalk with a limp, and have to go sideways up/down the stairs. My leg still will not extend. I do hear a small grinding in my knee when I walk. I can try the physical therapy but I feel he did not take the time to fully examine my knee and symptoms and especially the amount of pain I was and am still in. When I saw him was on two percocet every 4 hours. I am a forty three year old male with three sons that I would like to try to keep up with. I tend to think surgery might be the best answer, but i'm not a doctor. Please Help...

    March 4, 2012 at 09:39 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Sheila

      Doug, out of all the replies, yours was the one I felt was the most urgent. Hey, you need to FIND ANOTHER DOCTOR. You are suffering and this isn't going to go away by itself. You don't want to be disabled and hooked on the drugs just to barely get by. YOU KNOW something is wrong and in spite or those idiot docs you saw, you need to get another opinion. What they rec'md isn't working. First doc I saw said I only had a little arthritis. My rt. knee was an 8 -10 on a pain scale of 10. Saw another doc and he said I most assuredly had a medial meniscal tear. Had arthoscopic surg. and healed up pretty quick. Still had to have the synvisc lub injections in both knees but rt. knee is better. Now , L knee is torn. I'm not going to waste any more time as it's been hurting since oct. Just got the news today of this new tear so I'm prob. having surgery. The first surg. wasn't that painful at all so I'm not too worried. only about the bill. Good luck!

      March 27, 2012 at 17:58 | Report abuse |
  19. Dolphingirl95

    Recently I was practicing my dances over spring break, I had a MCL injury before in acrobatics class and well it got better in 8wks! anyway well i guess i twisted my knee and i felt this sharp pain all of a sudden.... I took a break the next day and went back in to practice the day after and i felt the same pain again. I went to orthopedics and they said i might of torn my meniscus but i'm still walking :/ i got my MRI but i'll find out soon i guess and well it still hurts but it doesn't look swollen at all. Some of my friends told me it could be a small tear b/c i'm able to walk it just hurts when i dance so i'm not sure what to do at this point. What is a faster way to hopefully heal my meniscus tear? I'm trying to get back to dance b/c i have a performance in a few wks! if you have experienced something similar before, please tell me your story and what the results were! and if you know maybe any website that could heal a meniscus by wrap perhaps?

    March 20, 2012 at 21:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Dexter

    I just had an MRI that says "suspect possibility of a small tear". Orthosurgeon suggested surgery. My primary was more cautious basically saying this is a lifestyle decision. Chances of arthritis are probably equal whether you operate or not, so if pain is manageable waiting and trying physical therapy and antiinflammatory medication is a reasonable option. Not sure what to do. I am not that physically active that bad knee bothers me and have learned from a couple of physical therapy session what not to do to aggravate the pain. I am not pain free by any means but not that bad that interferes with my life either.

    March 23, 2012 at 18:16 | Report abuse | Reply
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  23. ramya

    Hi, I hut my right knee while playing football 5 years ago. I am 21 now. MRI shows horizontal tear of lateral meniscus with parameniscal cyst. Doctor advised on surgery. I do have pain on an off ( especially when I use stairs) , otherwise, I am able to bike (15 km a day), walk (if not overdone) and carry on with my normal activities , avoiding stairs. Not sure if surgery is necessary. Will it be Ok if I carry on with this lifestyle? Or will the tear worsen and give me more problems in future?

    April 7, 2012 at 01:01 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Lee

      Surgury, I was in your position 7 years ago at the age of 21. In high school at the age of 16-17 I hurt my knee playing sports. I ignored it until two weeks ago. At 28 my knee has all but completely given out. I can not put weight on it with out pain, don't even think about twisting or moving fast, constant throbbing, and worry. I am seeing a surgeon Monday. Don't make the same mistake I did kid. My knee will never be the same now. I will be lucky if I get 60% back. I am still in extremely athletic shape, but this will not last since my physical activity has come to a screeching halt.

      July 9, 2012 at 18:04 | Report abuse |
    • Ajay

      Do not do surgery. Do PT. Live with the pain

      November 28, 2014 at 02:41 | Report abuse |
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  25. Inquiry Minds Wants to Know!

    Hello, I am 52 and suffer with Crohns Disease. I have just been diagnosed with two torn meniscus in both knees. I also have thinning of the cartilage anteriorly in there lateral femoral condyle with associated subchondral edma. The right knee is the worst. I have a lot of crackle, pop in the right knee, especially bending, squatting and when sitting and getting up. The pain is tolerable.. I love to walk 3-5 miles a day at least 4-5 days week. My concern is at what capacity would I fully recover? Would the surgery give me this ability to walk 3-5 miles again w/out pain? `How soon will the thinning of cartilage will required another surgery? How great is my chances getting osteoarthritis?

    April 17, 2012 at 12:01 | Report abuse | Reply
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  27. Charles Adeyeri

    i landed the wrong way in my basketball game about 2 days ago and got this awkward pain on the right side of my right knee. i thought maybe i had to sit down a few mins and everything would be all good. wrong. i cant straighten my leg fully or bend it fully. however, i can still walk (with a limp) but i need for this to go away. school starts in a month and a half. my leg hasnt locked up or anything. im seeing a doctor tomorrow. so far i have been icing it, elevating it, and take ibuprofen pills. helppp!!?? i dont want to get surgery but if i have to, so be it.

    June 8, 2012 at 21:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. mike

    i just learned i had a tear in my meniscus to and i was scared because i dont have health and i have no money for surgery but when i check with my dr he said the tear in my meniscus was not that bad and with icing and a leg brace and taking care of it could help it heal in a month to two month. but there a slight chance i need surgery but most likely not

    June 13, 2012 at 02:43 | Report abuse | Reply
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  30. sheila c

    I just went to the doctor and he examined my knee after telling him the tenderness is on the inside of my knee he tells me he's going to look at the x-ray. Mind you I had an MRI that I had to pay 200 dollars up front for. He comes back and tells me I've torn my lateral menicus (never tells me how bad) then tells me I have arithritis. I have NEVER had any arithiritic pain in this knee. He immediately said I need surgery. I'm really upset about this because once again he seems like a money hungry doctor and told me there was nothing I should do in the meantime. I've had this knee pain for 5 weeks and it seems to be getting better. I can't put all my weight on it and if I walk a lot or stand it hurts and swells. I'm really frustrated because I have insurance and I know I'm still going to pay an arm and leg for all of this. I'm just wondering if surgery really is the answer. It seems to be getting better but not as better as I would have thought after 5 weeks.

    October 4, 2012 at 13:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Steve

    I'm 46 and was hit by a SUV while ridding my motorcycle at work. I went to the doctor and after the X-ray and MRI I was told my meniscus was torn in two places one of which was all the way through. Four months after the injury I had surgery. I was on the couch for four days and crutches for another two weeks. I had PT three times a week for a total of twenty four visits, but the pain never went away infact it got worse. I have trouble going up or down stairs, standing or sitting for to long and walk with a limp. I returned to the doctor who ordered another MRI. I returned for the follow up reading and the doctor told me I need another surgery but also told me the MRI was blurry. I insisted on another MRI that wasn't blurry so I had one where they shot dye into my knee. In two days I return to the doctor for the reading but am pretty sure I'll need surgery again. I'm a little worried to have the same doctor do another surgery.

    October 28, 2012 at 23:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Madison

    Had successful surgery for a torn meniscus. But during it, the doc performed a lateral release for the patella. THAT has been terrible. I've often wondered if he did that just for more money, or because there were med students who needed to see the procedure done. Whatever the case, I've since been told I didn't need it, but my knee will never be the same. If a doc says they might do a lateral release, pay attention! It's a big deal.

    November 14, 2012 at 23:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Toronto sports medicine

    Short version taken from unbiased Canadian health care (read – where your surgery is not directly attached to your surgeon's paycheque):

    Vast majority of min-moderate size meniscal tears will "heal" with conservative therapy without surgery. Decrease the swelling, regain strength and get back to normal functional movements which will limit compensations that often mimic meniscal pain.

    Vast majority of large size meniscal tears will require surgery (usually have consistent locking issues and a drastic loss of range of motion). These cases should be obvious and surgery is almost always the best option here.

    Surgery should be your last option, not your first, as it is a large risk factor/cause of earlier onset osteoarthritis.

    Layman's terms – do a couple weeks of proper rehab if its not horrible before you sign up for surgery. It could save you a lot of issues as you get older and if it is not successful I can guarantee the work you do before surgery will make the recovery easier. Just stay away from treatments that spend all there time doing "fancy" things like laser, ultrasound, etc.

    December 1, 2012 at 11:33 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jason

      That is great advice. Thanks!

      January 28, 2013 at 08:24 | Report abuse |
    • Peter

      Thank you for your article. I am 54 years of age and injured my left knee hitting many golf balls. After hitting balls I found I could no longer turn onto the left leg, it felt like the knee would give way. Went to the doctor and he thinks I have a miniscus tear. I iced the knee initailly, within 2 days I was back walking on it. I have been doing strengthening exercises, including core exercises and swimming. The swelling is completely gone and the soreness along the side of the knee is gone. I went to a doctor recently who scheduled me to see a orthopedic surgeon. I have not had an mri. I am not sure what to do, golf is a big part of my life. Do I go for the surgery or if not , how long do I wait before hitting golf balls again?

      August 15, 2013 at 21:42 | Report abuse |
  34. Toronto sports medicine

    And no offense to Dr. Brawley, but why is your (CNN's) expert answer coming from a cancer doctor as opposed to an orthoaedic surgeon or sports physician?

    December 2, 2012 at 11:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Toronto sports medicine

    http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa0708333

    A high quality study that outlines arthroscopy use in patients that already osteoathritic changes. Working within the industry I can assure you that the findings can be taken into account for the general population as well (well the exception of larger tears, loose bodies, etc).

    December 2, 2012 at 12:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. ROZINA

    I am not very active but when i had o walk for long time or stand for long i had knee pain,i went to orthopedic surgeon ,he asked me to reduce weight and said i have arthritis.month back i got my knee locked and i could not bend my knee for 1 hour ,when i tried to bend my knee i had unbearable pain .it kept on repeating for one week inspite of medicines.i had my MRI and it shows meniscus tear along with water on the knee and regenerative changes.i dont have any pain or knee locking any more but i am scared to death that it might lock again . Dr have asked me to reduce weight without exercise ,i dont know how to do it.he says my weight has done the damage and i must not exert more weight on my knee.i m on bed and very depress.

    January 6, 2013 at 14:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. Jason

    A number of years ago, I had a radial tear in my right lateral meniscus . I was 25. The surgeon suggest surgery as the best option to prevent further damage. I was in quite a bit of pain but elected not to do the surgery. My father had a number of knee surgery’s so I knew surgery was not a quick answer. It took me over 8 months to recover through proper exercises and more importantly, knowing when to quit. It is has been a few years now and I've fully recovered (play hockey etc). When it does "flare up", I immediately get off it and recover.

    Unfortunately, I know have a tear in my other knee. I'm going to exhaust the non-surgical options on this one as well. I'm definitely afraid of these injuries because I know how long they can take to recover. I have young kids and the thought of not being able to keep up to them due to injury really frightens me. Nonetheless, I'm taking the approach of
    1) exercise and rest
    2) anti-inflammatory medication
    3) last resort; surgery

    January 28, 2013 at 08:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. Brandon Williams

    i was looking for some help on what i should do on going about my knee i hurt my right knee playing ball at the end of dec. i just came down on it wrong something popped like a looser i didn't pay attention and kept playing till it finally gave out one good time. Now i play semi-pro football just started and been slowly practing but ive been icing everyday but it still seems to swell and give me a little trouble i can run, cut do alot of things wit no pain but if i jump or slowdown fast from running fast it hurts dont really know if its torn but looking for some advise untill i can go get xray

    February 3, 2013 at 14:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Phil Oliveira

    For the last few months I've had a lot of discomfort in my left knee . I decided to have it checked out and come to find out I have a small tear in my meniscus . Now mind you I've never remembered injuring it and not sure how this came about . I've never had swelling or has never popped or locked out on me . I can walk and go up the stairs ok but just get a lot of discomfort when sitting or laying down . I'm want to avoid surgery if I can .

    February 4, 2013 at 14:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. Tom in AZ

    I played basketball all the way into college and 3-4 time/week after college, so my knees have had a lot of pounding, but never had knee issues. 3 years ago, I started to feel pain on the inside of my left knee, so I stopped playing so much basketball and switched to golf. Eventually my knee "popped" while wrestling around with a friend and I could hardly walk on it. I went to an orth surgeon a few weeks later and had an MRI..it came back as a torn medial meniscus. He immediately wanted to get me under the knife to clip out 30% of it. I decided to hold off and spoke to another surgeon that was a friend of a friend and he stated that if it's not locking up than it had a good chance of being healed with out surgery. As an orth surgeon himself, he made it clear that surgeons usually want their patients on the table, as that is how they make a living. My wife's cousin had just torn his meniscus too (volleyball) and chose to rehab it. It took him about 2 months and he was back to 95%. So I took the same route...I stayed off my knee (no golf or basketball...never had an issue with walking, but I could hardly do a 1 legged squat), started to work out by strengthening the quads/hamstrings/calf muscles and yoga to stretch them. It took about 3 months, but my left knee is 95% normal, no more pain...it clicks a little, but no issues. I would have tried prolotherapy before surgery, for sure! Now my right knee hurts in the EXACT same location...so I'm working the same regime as last time. I think I'm going to try the one of the Blood Flow Stim Therapy units...has good reviews (only $160 or so). At the end of the day, our bodies are amazing machines...let time, rest, cold/hot compresses, elevation etc have a shot before you rush to the operating table. I was pleasantly surprised how my body healed and very glad I didn't spend 5k to take out cartilage that can never be replace. Lots of info out there to investigate as alternatives to surgery...physical therapy, prolotherapy, BFST, rest, nutrition, weight loss etc. Good luck to all!

    February 6, 2013 at 18:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Ahsan

    i got my right knee injurt 2 years ago in dubai while playing, after MRI doctors conform the ACL have been tore and meniscus also tear in 2nd stage, and suggested for surgery, but 8 month i feel confortable but not like before, and still out of sports, and not yet done any surgery. I am looking a treatment with medicine only for my knee injery, so please kindly suggest me for a good and proper treatment. thanks

    February 7, 2013 at 05:09 | Report abuse | Reply
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  44. FullRecovery

    I suffered from intensive knee pain (both knees) for several years after having my daughter 6 years ago. Orthopedic doctors were quick to advise surgery without telling me why i've had the meniscal tear in both knees with no trauma or history of injury. After several specialists i found a doctor who willing to 'analyse' my case in detail and found that it was actually caused by my 'flat feel' over the period of weight gain during pregnancy & post natal exercising to lose that weight.
    Overall i could barely move, not walk/run/climb/sit on the floor. Just about function. Even then, i refused surgery as i could not see how it would 'solve' the root cause of my issue and prevent it from happening one more time. Instead i invested in orthotics and exercise.

    Last 1.5 years i have devoted to my knees – done proper weight training with a trainer, biked for miles, done yoga, lost weight, taken supplements – and become pain free over a period of time. But i HAVE to wear othotics all the time owing to my flat feet.

    Repeat MRIs have shown no healing, but at the same time, no worsening. Hence surgery is not a clear path for me. If i find that it can help me in the long run i may consider it – with the right doctor. But i don't need it at the minute.

    I never thought i would consider having another child, but now i do. My present doctor is thrilled with my progress and feels that my legs are now stronger than average women.

    Bottomline – strengthening your legs and knees can reduce knee pain. Try this before you go for surgery.

    May 22, 2013 at 06:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. JANI

    I am 22 years old. I have pain in my right knee so doctor told me to do MRI. In MRI he found meniscus in right knee and told me for the surgery. some times my right leg block itself and pain at that time i am not able to walk a step ahead.
    so please guide me what should i do?

    June 21, 2013 at 14:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. SYLVIA RODRIGUEZ

    I had surgery torn meniscus on my left knee. What at thing I should do to stay active and what to eat. Please advice I have gain 10 lbs but ii still try my best to stay active. I also should I keep doing my walking.

    July 21, 2013 at 12:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. soju

    i play football for my school and iv'e been having a lot of pain on my left knee and i didn't know what it was. The trainer in my school said it was just IT band syndrome... i kept playing with it for 4 months until i couldn't take it anymore. Finally got a MRI and found out that i have a torn lateral meniscus. I've been out of football for the past 3 months, and iv'e been in therapy for 4 weeks now. My orthopedic said see how therapy goes first and then we'll see if you need surgery. He didn't tell me how bad my tear was so i"m a little confused and worried on if therapy will get me back. After all these months, my left knee is still swollen(not too much) and still hurts on that outside part where it is swollen. i finally squatted with my own body weight and it wasn't too bad but when i do simple running on treadmills or bike on a machine, my pain comes back to that same area. I'm Definitely not playing school football my senior year but i still want to weight lift and run track and play flag football and other things. i also don't trust my left knee anymore because i don't know if it could give up on me or cant handle my weight if i do a sharp turn or juke. i'm considering surgery because its been 4 months and i haven't seen too much improvement on my left knee. Am i hurrying into surgery? I am only a teen and iv'e been doing a lot of research and a lot of people do get the surgery. Can someone please give me some advice because i want my active life back.

    October 30, 2013 at 23:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. montblanc ボールペン

    Will my meniscus tear heal without surgery? – The Chart – CNN.com Blogs montblanc ボールペン http://www.pslcbi.com/montblanc.html

    November 30, 2013 at 06:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. HelenLou

    I experience some type of injury approx 2yrs ago was diaginosed with a med torn meniscus 1st dr recommened surgery
    and drained my knee of fuild which showed no infection ,my 2nd option dr felt I could wait and get cors shots,I have no pain
    no popping no stiffness but swelling is an issue now he saying I have to be careful of blood clotting .neither dr has recommended
    ant type of thearpy just a prescription which I rarely take.I AM CONFUSED WHAT TO DO.,it almost like the dr is saying I"ll do the surgery but no solid recommendation given

    December 16, 2013 at 07:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. Kathy

    Had medial meniscus tear in left knee; arthroscopic surgery almost over a year ago now. Highly recommend having the surgery. IWas walking on it immediately; however, for about a week after surgery iced and elevated as recommended. Didn't want any setbacks.

    December 16, 2013 at 14:14 | Report abuse | Reply
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.