Should you get meniscus surgery for knee pain

If you have knee pain and have been told you have a meniscus tear and your doctor tells you need surgery, without a complete discussion that meniscus surgery has been shown to be ineffective, you should say no and never return to that office.

Knee meniscus surgery is still the procedure is still the most common elective orthopedic surgery in the U.S. Here’s the crazy thing, it’s been PROVEN with tons of high-level evidence that surgery for most meniscus tears in middle-aged patients doesn’t help any more than doing nothing or just physical therapy.

Don’t believe me? Here’s the research.

We’ve know this since all the way back in 2002, when a study by a university orthopedic surgeon showed that debridement (the cleaning up of a knee that has arthritis and degenerative meniscus tears) was no better than a sham surgery

The next blow came from The Framingham osteoarthritis study that  concluded meniscus tears didn’t hurt and were as common in middle and older ages as wrinkles

Now by this point, you’d imagine that your orthopedic surgeon would have really started to question doing meniscus surgery, right? Unfortunately that’s not the case.

Then in 2012 another study came out and said patients who had partial meniscectomy surgery didn’t have any better outcomes than those who didn’t have the surgery and just went through physical therapy

Then another in 2013 where a level-1 study demonstrated that meniscus surgery in patients with no arthritis was no better than a placebo surgical procedure.

Here’s an even more recent finding that included more than 300 patients in nine hospitals who had been diagnosed with meniscus tears after age 45. About half the patients were randomized to partial meniscectomy and half to eight weeks of physical therapy. Not surprisingly, once all of the data was crunched, the procedure turned out to be no more effective than physical therapy.

So why is meniscus surgery still so popular even though we have 20 years of research showing that it’s basically useless?

If it went away tomorrow, most orthopedic surgeons and hospitals wouldn’t be able to pay the bills. It’s a quick procedure that they know insurance will reimburse them for, so they continue to perform it. 

What are your non-surgical options for knee pain?

Well here’s the thing, knee pain is complex – it isn’t as simple as pointing to an MRI and saying your pain is coming from a single structure.

Dr. Josh Hanson in Tampa, FL takes a comprehensive approach when treating any kind of knee pain. I use a comprehensive approach that often combines a few different therapies (like orthopedic acupuncture, dry needling, and prolotherapy).

My approach takes into account ALL of the tissues (muscles, tendons, ligaments), ALL of the nerves that innervate the knee, and the inflammatory component that can make pain linger. 

This comprehensive approach has PROVEN to reduce pain and increase the knee’s ability to function. Which in the end is all that matters, because you get back to living your life! 

As always, feel free to reach out if you have any questions or want to see if I can help you. There’s a form on this page you can fill out and I will call you, or email me at

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Picture of Dr. Josh Hanson, DACM

Dr. Josh Hanson, DACM

Dr. Josh Hanson specializes in treating chronic pain and providing fertility support. He has performed 40,000+ procedures over the last 10+ years. Dr. Hanson has a clinic in Tampa, FL where patients travel from all over Florida to receive cutting edge care.

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