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‘Is knee surgery safe or should I wait?’

‘Is knee surgery safe or should I wait?’

John, who’s in his late 50s, has been running since he was in his twenties, but recently had an incident where the inside of his right knee started throbbing during a run. After this, he had a bad limp for about a week. His doctor told him he had a torn meniscus, and that about 40% of his knee would have to be removed. He’s worried he may not come out of the surgery without complications, and wants a second opinion.

My Advice:

John, the meniscus is the lining of the bone. As you get older and rub this lining together too often, you end up wearing it down and having bone on bone interaction. This results in severe pain and develops into arthritis. Now, in your case, the meniscus may not be entirely worn away. It may just be torn. If this is what’s happened, your doctor will shave this off and you’ll end up feeling a lot less pain. However, as you get older, you may still develop arthritis, whether you have the surgery or not.

Before considering surgery, understand that you’re getting older, and may need to start making some changes in your lifestyle. If you’re running on a soft track or a treadmill, then that should be pain free. But if you’re running on hard pavement, then you should expect this would cause you some pain. I want you to be in good shape, but I don’t want you to hurt yourself to get there.

My recommendation is to not get the surgery. Instead, try dialing down your exercise regimen a bit to see if this helps your meniscus grow back on its own. You don’t know exactly what the problem is right now, so why bother going through surgery if ultimately it’s not going to be necessary? Get off the pavement and run on the treadmill, starting slowly and building up as your knee heals. Let pain be your guide — if it hurts, stop.  And you’ll have to be patient — joints can take months to heal, especially as we start to age.

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