Did you know that arthroscopic knee surgery is one of the most common operations carried out in the U.S. today? Now why do you suppose that? How about it’s quick, it’s easy and–cha-ching!–it pays. Well, the latest reports show that arthroscopic surgery for arthritis of the knee is no better than rehabilitation and medication. Hmm…can’t say I’m surprised by that.

Timing is impeccable as I’ve just written an article on the same subject, but the details are this: When it comes to relieving the pain and stiffness of moderate to severe knee arthritis, surgery is no better than physical therapy and medication. Further, that holy grail of orthopedic diagnostics–the MRI–is not the end all, be all when it comes to predicting surgical necessity. What this means–and something we know quite well in chiropractic–is that many MRIs show tears (and disc bulges) in non-symptomatic people while many with symptoms have no tears (or bulges) at all. What does this mean on a practical level? MRI results may be over-predicting the necessity of what are now routine orthopedic surgeries. And we now have the studies to prove it.

As musculoskeletal clinicians, chiropractors know quite well of this misdiagnostic and mismanagement practice. Practically every patient of mine who has walked into an orthopedists office with knee pain has been recommended a knee surgery, despite the fact that they were prime candidates for conservative rehabilitative care. The same is true for the low back pain patient with radiating pain into the leg. Many things cause radiation, but walk into an orthopods office and expect a surgical recommendation. Damn shame, considering many people still take the M.D.’s word as law. Guess what people? Arthroscopic knee surgery was a low risk money maker for your doctor. Cha-ching.

Here’s the bottom line: If you are having knee pain, stiffness and other symptoms, read this article before you make a treatment decision. It could save you an unnecessary trip to the surgeon. Many knee problems can be fixed through conservative rehabilitative care. You’ve got nothing to lose, and the surgery will always be there if you need it later.

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