I have had a number of knee injuries from sports and tore my meniscus two times in BJJ. I didn’t do surgery on it because all of my research suggested that it was a risky move.
So I took natural, alternative and some definitely non-mainstream approaches to healing and treating it.
So I put some of that research here (in regards to surgery) and a ton (in regards to healing) on a site I made called Healiscus.
DISCLAIMER: I am not a doctor and even if I was you shouldn’t believe everything I say. You have to do ample research to determine the best course of action for you.
In this post first I’ll focus on the studies and outcomes surrounding meniscus tear surgeries. Then towards the end I’ll touch on some treatment tips and there’s an FAQ too.
If you are a big thinker and you want to heal your meniscus (ideally without surgery) so you can get back to your game then this is probably for you.
Or if you are considering surgery I think this will definitely help.
WELCOME TO THE TERROR DOME.
It’s like a bad dream…
And it’s called the red and white zone.
Many orthopedic doctors say…
If your tear is in the red zone it has a chance to heal. And if your tear is in the white zone then you are out of luck and you probably need a partial meniscectomy to “fix” it.
But is it really that black and white?
There is some truth to that to say that the white zone is not vascular.
But to say it can’t heal there…
In fact here is a study that says cells were able to migrate.
Explant studies revealed that migrating cells were mainly confined to the red zone in normal menisci: However, these cells were capable of repopulating defects made in the white zone.
You’re not getting the most up to date information when you consult your ‘average’ orthopedic doctor.
You’re not getting the best medical advice or attention you could receive.
You’re getting OLD information and practices.
Do you want to heal your meniscus without surgery?
Chances are you can.
However, if your tear is displaced or it’s completely torn in half then maybe you do need surgery. If it’s catching or locking then maybe you do need surgery.
Although that ‘could’ also be inflammation from trauma and not just a piece of torn meniscus.
I’ve torn my meniscus in judo and jiu-jitsu 2 times (according to the MRI). Aside from that I’ve had countless injuries from snowboarding, basketball and even drunk bike riding at 2am in the morning 20+ years ago.
A torn MCL, fractured arm, fractured clavicle, fractured finger, torn cartilage, torn rotator cuff, dislocated finger, bruised tibia and ribs, and plenty of undiagnosed injuries.
And maybe you too.
So how does your knee feel now?
Does it feel like someone sliced up the inside of your knee with an x-acto and then kicked it?
Are you limping?
Well, I can teach you how to heal it (most likely without surgery) and/or if you decide to get surgery I can even help you recover faster and better from it.
The most common ‘fix’ for a torn meniscus is a partial meniscectomy.
Chances are if you get a partial meniscectomy that you will develop osteoarthritis (OA) in that knee.
One source suggests that if you cut out as little as 10% of your meniscus that it increases joint stress by 70%. Your chances of developing arthritis increase exponentially the more they remove.
If you remove part of your meniscus then you change the biomechanics of the knee.
Some people can quickly return to sports and activity within a few weeks after partial meniscectomy.
A partial meniscectomy often removes the symptoms (pain) now.
But how will you fare down the road?
1 year, 5 years, 10 years later?
Well, according to this study…
“Nearly 63% of knee meniscus surgery patients developed knee arthritis in the meniscectomy knee within 8 years, on average, following surgery. Compare this to the opposite knee that was not operated on: 28% developed arthritis in that same time period.”
“Early after surgery, 92% of patients had excellent or good results, in term of knee pain, swelling, ROM, squatting, but at a mean of eight years after surgery, only 62% of the patients rated their knees as excellent or good.” – Source
92% said they felt ok after surgery, but then 8 years later 38% didn’t.
Your odds of needing a knee replacement in the future increase 3 fold when you get a meniscectomy according to this study.
Yeah, but what about a ‘partial’ meniscectomy?
“Partial meniscectomy, the most common orthopedic surgical intervention, is recognized as a strong risk factor for knee OA.” – Source
“However, meniscectomy is not ideal because it disrupts the normal anatomical structure and function of the meniscus.” – Source
Any sort of meniscectomy (partial or full) removes the torn bit before it has any chance to heal.
And of course they’ll tell you that it won’t heal…
But you should be very careful about what any orthopedic surgeon tells you because you are likely getting dated information and practices.
What about meniscus repair vs. partial meniscectomy?
Is repair better?
Yes, it can be. Definitely lean towards this if you are thinking surgery.
But know it is not without risk.
And many surgeons will not decide what treatment they will do until they go inside your knee with a scope. So even if you lean towards repair many will not be able to guarantee you that they will do a repair and you could wake up with less of a meniscus.
In the BJJ forum on Reddit someone commented on their stitches.
“Meniscal repairs have a higher re-operation rate than partial meniscectomies, although they are associated with better long-term outcomes.” – Source
Meniscus repair failure rate?
- In this study the failure rate for 25 year olds and older was just 15%.
- In this study the failure rate was 36%.
- In this study the failure rate was 22%.
- In this study 96% were said to regain their pre-injury activity level.
- It is mentioned here that in one study the failure rate was 29%.
And the weird thing is that many doctors may only try the repair surgery if you’re of a certain age or if the tear is in the red zone.
But if it’s in the red zone why even try to repair it?
It doesn’t make sense.
They say your meniscus tear won’t heal because there is no blood flow to part of the meniscus and tears in the red zone have a better chance of healing.
So if it could heal there why even mess with it?
But doctors have financial interest$ to mess with it. Your torn meniscus is no tragedy to him – it’s probably money in the bank.
Your doctor is biased like everyone else including me (and more on me later). And while he may be good at using that trimming tool…
There goes your meniscus…
You’re not getting the big picture when you go see an orthopedic surgeon for your knee.
You’re getting a particular orthopedic ‘surgeons’ view on how to fix your meniscus.
Most orthopedic doctors look at the body as if it’s a
living organism machine which is just part of it because unlike a machine you are alive.
They don’t all agree and they don’t all use the same practices to surgically repair your meniscus either.
There’s not necessarily one way to heal your knee, but he is likely practicing one way.
And he is working for a slow changing institution – MEDICINE.
Even if you find a great surgeon working privately he still has to confirm to certain ‘standards’.
Medicine like education, government and religion is slow to change.
“Changing clinical practice is a difficult process, best illustrated by the time lag between evidence and use in practice and the extensive use of low-value care.” – Source
And I can guarantee you that the medicine and treatments for a torn meniscus will be very different 50 years from now.
DO YOU THINK I AM TALKING NONSENSE HERE????
Check this out.
“A staggering 36,000 randomized controlled trials (RCTs) are published each year, on average, and it typically takes about 17 years for findings to reach clinical practice.” – Source
Like I said…
You’re getting ‘old’ medicine.
Old beliefs and old practices.
I can’t say all orthopedic surgeons will do you in and mess up your knee.
You may have good luck and get a great surgeon.
Some people do.
Yet many people don’t.
Here’s another study…
Do you know the search related to feature on the bottom of the Google search results page?
Check this data out.
This is like a study in itself.
These ones stood out the most to me.
- knee pain one year after surgery
- knee pain two years after surgery
You read above that the chances of getting arthritis after partial meniscectomy are fairly high and that there is a sizable chance of repairs failing.
And what that image just showed you was another metric of what might happen if you get surgery.
Can you heal the meniscus naturally without surgery?
As you can see surgery isn’t going to necessarily ‘fix it’ and in fact it’s possible that it will make it worse.
Those doctors may have told you “it can’t heal”. And it may be slow or difficult to heal, but you can regenerate cartilage and you can boost your bodies ability to fix itself, but you’ve got to intervene and most likely change some of your habits.
Here’s a BIG tip.
You need to boost growth factors like:
- Insulin-like growth factor
- Platelet derived growth factor
- Fibroblast growth factor
- Epidermal growth factor
- Human growth hormone
And stem cells…
In fact you have stem cells in your injured knee right now.
But how do you boost those growth factors?
How long does a torn meniscus take to heal without surgery?
That entirely depends on the severity of the tear and what you do or don’t do to help it heal. It could take any where from a month to a year or more to fully heal. You can’t be passive. It’s also possible that the tear may only partially heal.
Can a meniscus tear heal on its own?
Yes, it’s possible however, your best bet is to take action and do a complete rehab program that covers all angles (see below for more).
A severe tear may not be able to heal well on its own. But I would be very skeptical of any doctor that states, “it can’t heal”. It’s possible that it could get worse with re-injury or it’s possible that it could get better with time.
Here’s a study that shows that 37% of the people with defects in their cartilage showed an improvement and 31% showed a worsening.
Can you walk around with a torn meniscus?
Yes, sometimes you can, however it’s advised that you take it easy initially for a least a few weeks and totally minimize movement as lots of movement may cause further injury and then progressively add motion.
If it hurts stay off it.
Can a torn meniscus get worse over time?
Yes, it could. If it’s a severe displaced tear then the tear could get bigger. On the other hand studies show that some people have asymptomatic tears. In other words they had tears they didn’t even know about.
You can take action and learn:
- what your orthopedic surgeon won’t tell you
- the best exercises for torn knee cartilage
- how to rebuild cartilage in your knee
- how to decrease your knee pain
- the alternatives to surgery
- therapy for your meniscus
- how to strengthen your knees
- how to regenerate cartilage
- DIY protocols &…
- the best diet