Knee Treatment: Torn Meniscus and Loss of Cartilage


Before heading to see Shmuel Tatz, PT, PhD about my knee, I’d heard from more than one doctor the WHAT NOT TO DO LIST: No stairs, no kneeling, no crossing legs, no sitting on floor, no squatting, no dancing. Plus I had a hard time wrapping my head around my previous physical therapist experiences: lots of clipboards and sessions with different PT’s each time and no results other than frustration. Still left with an imperfect knee that had suffered a few life-injuries. First there was the fall resulting in the tibial plateau fracture, then the torn meniscus, then the basic wear and tear, and loss of cartilage. The messages I was receiving from the medical community was to accept my ‘trick knee’.

That said, I wasn’t willing to give up and started asking friends and searching online for a specialist in physical therapy. One that might take insurance was another issue as I was on a pretty tight budget. After calling at least twenty PT offices, I reached Dr. Tatz’ office whose lovely assistant ushered me in immediately.

Tatz, the NYC acclaimed gray-haired PT, wasn’t much for words. He was more interested in what my entire body was saying to him and his reactions to my body versus vocabulary. His navigations seemed to be intuitive rather than straight out of a medical journal. He ‘tuned’ my body from the jaw down, gentle manipulations that made me feel thankful for the solid hour away from the pressures of NYC. Sometimes when seeing practitioners, I worry about what’s going on outside of the room rather than relaxing and healing inside.

He spoke very lightly, giving me kind prompts what to do during the session: Relax; breathe with ease, not with effort. His gifted hands were his main instrument, but for a portion of the session, he used a companion, a Scenar – a handheld device that provided mild electronic stimulation. He brushed my body with the Scenar in one hand, the other hand cradling problem areas. Eventually he focused solely on the knee. Using an acupressure point on my foot while adjusting, massaging, shaking my knee and the left side of my body. Anytime I would get nervous, he would remind me that I was there to allow him to take care of my body. “Relax, physical therapy should make you feel good.”

My body and mind had been conditioned to such negative feedback from the medical community. While I ‘liked’ all my doctors, I had come to feel frightened about their prognosis. I figured if I ended up hobbling around NYC with a cane the rest of my life, I’d be okay. So many New Yorkers and people around the world have much more harrowing and difficult plights than my knee problems. I had thrown in the towel. Almost.

During the treatment, Tatz taught me some delicate PT exercises. I was worried I would forget, and wanted to write them down. He said, ‘No, whatever you remember will be the right exercise.” I got the impression he wanted my body to remember what to do, not my mind. Then after the hands-on session, he put me in a room and put my knee under a magnetic therapy machine with classical music playing in the background.

After my first hour with Tatz, I asked, “What about the WHAT NOT TO DO LIST?” He shook his head and said, “No! Not what not to do.” His philosophy: “Do anything that makes you feel good and doesn’t cause pain. Anything that causes pain don’t do it. There is NO LIST.”

That was my first session. I left there feeling that my knee was already on the mend, feeling optimistic. But also left thinking about all the things I could do versus what I couldn’t do. All the while looking forward to my next session.

by J. Baldwin