You have been told you have a degenerative meniscus tear in your knee. Don’t blame yourself―you did nothing to bring this on. A degenerative condition results from plain old wear and tear linked to aging—in this case, of the cartilage (usually the medial meniscus) within the knee that serves as a shock absorber.

As cartilage ages, its consistency changes somewhat. It becomes more susceptible to tiny tears that can grow until they become painful, tears that can be exacerbated even by a very minor injury. Unfortunately, degenerative meniscus tears will not heal on their own; cartilage, unlike skin tissue, does not regenerate. Before your treatment for a meniscus tear, you should avoid placing full weight on the affected knee by using a cane or crutches.

In some instances of a degenerative meniscus tear—for example, if your pain has begun to improve, if your range of motion is close to normal, if the condition doesn’t interfere with performing your daily activities—surgery isn’t necessarily imminent. A physical therapy program may be enough to treat the tear and its negative effects, at least for a while. Working with you and your physician, we can design a program to make your knee, and your normal activities, as comfortable as possible.

In other cases, however, surgery is inevitable. Your doctor may recommend an arthroscopic procedure during which the torn cartilage is either removed or repaired. Physical therapy after surgery is crucial, beginning with a fitted knee brace that you will wear for about six weeks. After any postoperative pain and inflammation resolve, your goal becomes to return strength and mobility to the joint and return you to your normal daily activities. We will design a program that begins with gentle exercises and, over the following weeks and months, gradually increases in strenuousness until you can return to full function.

Whether you face surgery or avoid it, we can assist in managing degenerative meniscus tears and look forward to helping you―and your knee―feel better.

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