The skinny on three common knee-fixing procedures.
joint xray
Credit: Getty Images

Getty Images

Arthroscopic Meniscus Surgery
What it is: A minimally invasive operation to repair or remove damaged cartilage.

When you need it: If you've torn your meniscus in an acute sports injury. You may not need it for OA. In fact, in a 2013 study, patients with OA who got the procedure fared about the same as those who just did physical therapy (PT).

How it's done: The surgeon uses a pencil-size camera inserted into your knee joint.

Recovery: You'll be able to drive in one to three weeks and return to most physical activities in six to eight weeks.

ACL Reconstruction Surgery
What it is: A repair of a torn ACL (anterior cruciate ligament), which connects your femur to your tibia.

When you need it: If you've torn the ligament, often while playing sports that involve pivoting (skiing, tennis), or have significant weakness. The procedure will restore stability, says Robert G. Marx, MD, an orthopedic surgeon at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City.

How it's done: Typically, a graft is taken from a tendon in the hamstrings or knee.

Recovery: You'll be on crutches for about a month. After four to six months of PT, you should be able to resume playing sports.

Watch the video: 4 Easy Knee Stretches

Knee Replacement
What it is: The insertion of an artificial joint.

When you need it: If your knee pain has lasted more than six months, hasn't responded to other treatments and is so severe it's affecting your daily life.

How it's done: The damaged cartilage and a small amount of bone are removed, then a metal-and-plastic joint is implanted.

Recovery: You'll need to stay in the hospital for about three nights and may miss several weeks of work. But, ultimately (with three months of PT), your knee should function like normal.