3 Possible Alternatives to Orthopedic Surgery
Orthopedic surgery can provide welcome relief for a wide range of conditions that may affect bones and joints. Yet it’s an option most patients would prefer to avoid whenever possible, primarily due to concerns about being sidelined by a lengthy recovery process. Whether you are dealing with knee pain from a damaged anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) or chronic back pain from degenerative disc disease, there are non-surgical alternatives you may not have considered that could minimize or eliminate your discomfort, or at least make pain manageable.
Identifying what’s likely triggering your pain can help you avoid certain movements or activities. For instance, if your job involves a lot of heavy lifting, wearing a back brace and paying attention to proper lifting techniques could ease your pain. Making changes to your diet to include foods that naturally fight inflammation and losing weight are other types of lifestyle modification that sometimes affect how pain is experienced.
Physical Therapy and Exercise
Exercise and physical therapy based on abilities and goals may improve the strength of muscles that directly or indirectly support bones, joints, spinal discs, and nerves. Patient-specific PT exercises are often focused on improving mobility and gradually restoring flexibility and range of motion. Additionally, exercise stimulates the production of hormones called endorphins that have effects similar to some pain-relievers. Physical therapy may also involve:
- Massage therapy
- Hot and cold applications
- Non-surgical decompression on a specially designed table
- Electrotherapy in the form of TENS units, interferential current therapy, or spinal cord stimulation
Immediate relief may result from injections placed directly where pain is felt. There are several different types of injections that could help patients enjoy enough relief to delay or avoid surgery. Typically administered with a local anesthetic and a steroid medication, epidural injections are placed into the space outside of a sac of fluid around the spinal cord. Injections in the form of nerve blocks prevent nerves from transmitting pain signals to certain areas of the body. Widely used by top athletes, platelet rich plasma (PRP) injections work by stimulating tissue healing by increasing the concentration of platelets in the injured area.
Surgery for most conditions that affect bones and joints is rarely immediately necessary. If you don’t have to immediately make a decision about surgery, an orthopedic specialist may be able to direct to you to non-surgical treatments or remedies. Some patients also benefit from a different combination of medications, chiropractic manipulations, and alternative therapies like acupuncture and mindful meditation.