Exercise therapy is as effective as surgery for middle-aged patients with a meniscal tear injury to their knee, according to a study published in the BMJ.
Every year, an estimated two million people worldwide undergo knee arthroscopy (keyhole surgery to relieve pain and improve movement) yet evidence suggests surgery offers little benefit for most patients.
So researchers based in Denmark and Norway carried out a trial to compare exercise therapy with arthroscopic surgery in middle aged patients.
Half of the patients received a supervised exercise programme over 12 weeks (two to three sessions each week) and half received arthroscopic surgery followed by simple daily exercises to perform at home.
Thigh muscle strength was assessed at three months and patient reported knee function was recorded at two years.
No difference was found between the two groups for outcomes such as pain, function in sport and recreation, and quality of life. At three months, muscle strength had improved in the exercise group.
The results show that structured exercise therapy should be considered as a treatment option, researchers say.