Is Surgery Necessary for ACL Tears? The Answer Will Surprise You

I personally had my right knee scoped when I was 18 for a torn medial meniscus.  I now have arthritis on the inside part of my knee, which I keep solidly pain free with soft tissue work and exercise.

Knowing what I know now, I never would’ve had that surgery done.  While this particular article looks at 121 young active adults with ACL tears (a more complex injury than a meniscal tear), it again raises questions about the dogma that exists on the need for surgery for many knee conditions.  Basically, delaying surgery and trying non-surgical management first (which, in this office would include aggressive soft tissue techniques like Graston as well as whole body vibration to stabilize the joint) seems to be the better option.

Here’s the specifics:

  • 62 were put in rehab and had early ACL reconstruction, with 59 assigned to rehab plus optional delayed ACL reconstruction
  • Of the 59 who initially did not have surgery, 23 (39%) underwent delayed ACL reconstruction.
  • Based on the Knee Injury and Osteoarthritis Outcome Score (KOOS, which asks about pain, symptoms, function in sports and recreation, and knee-related quality of life), there was NO difference in any of the treatment approaches.

In other words, just because you have an ACL tear does NOT mean that you have to have surgery.  It makes complete sense to go into rehab after an injury like this with the expectation that you will not need surgery, but keeping an open mind about the topic if you do not respond to the rehab itself.


James Bogash

For more than a decade, Dr. Bogash has stayed current with the medical literature as it relates to physiology, disease prevention and disease management. He uses his knowledge to educate patients, the community and cyberspace on the best way to avoid and / or manage chronic diseases using lifestyle and targeted supplementation.