You complain of severe medial knee pain and you go to your orthopedist. They take an MRI and find a torn meniscus. You are whisked away to surgery for a quick menisectomy. Welcome to the world of wackyville. The orthopedist never attempted to determine which tissue was creating the pain signal that was bothering you. They simply took that MRI result and figured they have another customer for surgery. The funny part or sad part depending on whether you are the one who is in pain, is after the surgery you still have the same pain and the orthopedist is dumb founded by this fact. They have no answers and simply say the surgery was a success. For the surgeon, a smashing success. For you, still in pain, I am not sure that is the word you would use to describe the surgery.
Let's now go to the world of reality where a diagnosis has to make sense and proper diagnoses allow for proper treatment to resolve symptoms such as pain. In the case of medical knee pain, a key to diagnosing the pain is to palpate or touch the tissue that is creating the pain. What most people are not aware of is that the hamstring muscle which sits in the back of the thigh connects to the knee by tendons that wrap around to the front of the knee. A portion of the medial hamstring has a tendon that connects the the lower leg bone just below the knee cap on the medial side of the knee joint.
This is where most people complain of their pain when they are experiencing medial knee joint pain. If the cause of pain was a meniscal tear, the only place where you could get pain is at the medical joint line. This is the space between the femur and tibia or thigh bone and lower leg bone. It is a thin slit that can be can felt on either side of the knee joint. In my almost 18 years of practice, patients have rarely experienced pain at this joint line.
That MRI result that the orthopedist is holding his hat on as the key to diagnosing you is a false premise. One study showed that 62% of the population in the study that had knee pain, had a meniscal tear. In the population that had no pain 60% of this population had a meniscal tear. The reason for this is that the tears identified whether in pain or not were degenerative tears that healed and were not creating pain. They required no intervention because the body had healed the tears. They were simply picked up by an MRI cause that is what MRIs do.
In cases where the pain is experienced at the attachment point of the hamstring tendon to the lower leg bone, a strain of the hamstring muscle is typically the cause. An evaluation to determine the extent of the strain is necessary to identify which exercises should be performed to resolve the medial knee pain. But this is the key to resolving the pain at the medial knee.
You must realize that most joint pain is the result of muscle weakness or imbalance. In a case like this, the pain is simply resulting from a muscle strain and experienced where a tendon is attaching to the knee joint. Don't be fooled by the ridiculous MRI result and don't be swayed into getting an unnecessary surgery that will do nothing to resolve your pain. If you go to a orthopedic surgeon who is incapable of differentiated what tissue is creating a pain signal, walk away. The results could be very bad! I mean for you; not the surgeon.