Orthopedic surgeries (those affecting bones, muscles, tendons, or ligaments) have become increasingly common in recent decades as potential solutions for many common conditions. Joint replacements, tendon/ligament repairs, or just general “clean-ups” are the most common procedures that are seen in physical therapy clinics, but there are others of course.
What’s not commonly mentioned is just how expensive these surgeries are, and that other options are often available for many conditions. If we look at things like arthritis, rotator cuff tears, or disc herniations, many of them respond well to non-surgical interventions. The same can be said for many other common issues. That’s not to discount surgery at all, but it’s important to know all of the options that are available to you.
Alternatives to Surgery:
- Injections – Usually using a steroid to reduce pain or inflammation, injections are common substitutes for surgeries as a minimally invasive technique to provide pain relief, especially in joints or tendons. Muscle pain also has some success with certain injection protocols. Recovery time is minimal, and they’re much cheaper.
- Physical Therapy – For most conditions, physical therapy is comparable to surgery in terms of long-term pain relief and function, but the cost, risk, and sometimes even the time investment is less, and often significantly so. Remember, most surgeries have a recovery time of at least 2-3 months, and during that time you’re probably going to need physical therapy anyway as part of a standard recovery protocol. A common example is a knee replacement for arthritis. As has already been discussed here, knee arthritis responds well to exercise, and in most cases, 1-2 months of Physical Therapy will provide significant relief. In comparison, a typical knee replacement is going to require 2-3 months of rehab after the surgery. Physical therapy can also help address the underlying issues as to why you developed your issues.
- Medications – When the complaint is pain or inflammation, medication will often be the first choice by any physician you see. But it’s still important to remember that prescribed medication is a quick, relatively cheap option that can significantly help reduce your pain and get you moving with less pain. The issue with medications for pain is that there needs to be some plan to transition away from using medication. If you stop taking the medication and the pain comes back, you never fixed the problem.
Depending on the issue, there may be other alternatives to surgery. For example, pain in your feet or knees may be helped by orthotics. For back or neck pain, braces may be a good temporary option to help settle your symptoms down.
The bottom line is that it’s important to know your options. A torn tendon or joint arthritis doesn’t always need surgery, and for most instances of pain or movement dysfunctions, there are better options. Physical therapy is a great foundation to get you back to doing what you love, and can be combined with medication, injections, or supports like orthotics or braces to make that process easier. Having a PT to help coordinate your care as part of a team can help speed up the process significantly.
Got questions? Feel limited in what you’re able to do? The staff at Limitless Physical Therapy in Eugene, OR can show you how to discover your future without limits.
***The above information, including text, images, and all other materials, is provided for educational purposes only, and not as a replacement or supplement to professional medical advice. Please contact a certified healthcare professional or your primary physician for any personal concerns.