If you or a loved one suffer from knee pain and you’ve never heard of arthroscopic partial meniscectomy, or APM, before thank your lucky stars.
You just dodged a bullet.
Because there’s new evidence that this wildly popular knee surgery, is practically useless in many cases, especially if you’re a senior.
Yet, despite its lack of benefits, it’s become the go to knee slice-and-dice procedure of choice for countless surgeons according to the new study published in JAMA Surgery.
Johns Hopkins researchers say APM makes up about 66.7 percent of the knee arthroscopic surgeries performed by docs in medium to high volume practices. Plus an incredible two-thirds of all arthroscopic knee procedures in older folks in 2016 were APM surgeries.
And frankly, as a knee pain sufferer myself I can see why so many folks agree to it. When my knee was at its worst the promise of a “minor” outpatient surgery that cleans out the worn cartilage and relieves my pain would have been very appealing.
Heck, when you’re in pain even the $2,000 to $10,000 price tag isn’t much of a deterrent.
Surgery fails to relieve wear-and-tear knee pain
But had I gone for it instead of skipping off into the sunset the way I pictured, I likely would have been limping my way to the couch. With nothing but a potential addiction to pain killers so show for it.
And, of course, this isn’t the first time we’ve heard about APM and its lack of benefits. Multiple trials over the past few years have shown the surgery is ineffective for treating common wear-and-tear pain in the knees.
In one memorable study researchers found that APM was literally no more effective than a “sham” surgery—when they faked having done the procedure. In the end, the surgeries didn’t reduce pain or improve mobility any more than the placebo procedures.
And yet year after year, in spite of the lack of evidence that it would help their patients, crowds of surgeons have clamored to cash in on the easy money surgery.
If your doc brings up APM, don’t fall for it. Ask lots of questions, and insist on getting a second opinion.
Because the new study found the only people this surgery has shown any real promise for is younger folks and athletes who have suffered a traumatic tear of the meniscus.
Three easy solutions for REAL knee pain relief
So what does help?
According to the Hopkin’s researchers two things.
- Good old fashioned physical therapy
And we typically suggest a three part plan for tackling chronic knee pain.
In my own case, exercise has been incredibly effective. Swimming is an excellent low impact and gentle way to build up the supporting muscles around your bum knee.
And as you build strength, you may even want to add in a water aerobics class. Look for one that’s geared towards folks with arthritis or speak to the instructor about your special needs.
And to maintain flexibility, and strengthen and lengthen your muscles, consider Yoga too. Try a class or DVD designed for people with mobility issues.
While you’re making a move to relieve your knee pain you can also work on the problem from the inside out.
A double-blind study published in the journal Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases found chondroitin, a substance that’s found naturally in joint cartilage, could be the key to relieving knee pain.
Fifty seven percent of folks who took the supplement experienced significant pain relief. And the chondroitin helped folks improve their walking distances and ability to do daily chores just as well as a prescription pain reliever did.
Keep in mind that chondroitin doesn’t typically provide instant relief. So you need to be patient and keep taking the supplement for at least six months before deciding whether, or not, it works for you.
3. Topical pain relief:
To temporarily soothe away the day-to-day aches and pains, topical pain relievers are a great option. If you typically wake up with your knees feeling stiff, they’re a great way to get moving first thing in the morning. And at the end of a busy day when you’ve done a lot of walking they can help take the edge off so you can sleep comfortably.
Look for one that contains capsaicin or menthol, two powerful pain relievers which can help rub out your knee pain on contact.