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The Best Relief for Bad Knees

Exercise, weight loss, physical therapy, and meds are first-line nonsurgical options

Arthroscopic surgery may be no better than nonsurgical treatment to relieve arthritic pain in the knee, concludes a study in the Sept. 11 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Researchers treated 178 people who had moderate to severe chronic knee pain with both physical therapy and medications such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen; 86 participants also had arthroscopic surgery. After two years, both groups reported nearly the same levels of pain, disability, and stiffness.

"Exercise, weight loss, physical therapy, and over-the-counter pain medications are first-line alternatives to surgery," says John H. Wilckens, M.D., an orthopedist at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. "Arthroscopy may provide some benefit to a very select group."

Nissa Simon is a freelance writer who lives in New Haven, Conn.

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