Chronic pain impacts more than 50 million Americans, and almost half of them are limited in their life and work as a result. The causes of such pain are often orthopedic conditions such as arthritis in their joints or disc degeneration in their low back. For sufferers, the effects are depressing and often leave them asking: Do I need surgery?
Whether it’s knee surgery, hip surgery or shoulder surgery, more than a million Americans have joint replacement surgery every year. This makes it the 3rd most common type of surgery performed in the United States – second only to cataracts and C-sections. However, despite assurances that “it might help” or “we don’t have much to lose,” it is not the best decision for everybody.
The Fear of Surgery
The decision to have surgery is never something taken lightly. In fact, many people live with pain and slowly withdraw from life’s activities to avoid it. They wrestle with questions like:
- Will my age make my recovery harder?
- Will my other health conditions make surgery riskier?
- My doctor thinks there’s little risk, so is my fear unwarranted?
- Will I be able to do the activities that I used to do?
- What if I am not physically fit enough to make it through rehab?
- What if I am unsteady during recovery and I fall?
- Do I have the right people to help take care of me after surgery?
- Can I handle the pain of rehab?
There are times when surgery is necessary, but there are often more conservative, non-surgical treatment options that a person can and should consider before pulling the trigger.
Should I have surgery?
If you are trying to decide whether or not to have surgery, ask yourself the following questions first:
- Have I made changes to my LIFESTYLE?
- To what extent is your current lifestyle exacerbating the condition or making it flare?
- How many changes or concessions have you made or considered?
- How extensive is the PAIN?
- How prolonged and frequent are flareups of pain?
- How well can the pain be managed and eliminated with some initial resting, staying away from an activity, at home icing and/or minimal over-the-counter pain meds?
- How COMPLEX is the surgery?
- How long and involved is the procedure?
- Are there local surgeons who perform it often and with good long-term outcomes?
- Have less invasive, non-surgical treatments been explored?
- Has the procedure benefited from ADVANCEMENTS in recent years?
- How advanced are the procedures and techniques used?
- How successful do studies show the surgery to be?
- Do patients report less pain 1 and 2 years later?
- How difficult is the RECOVERY?
- How intense is the physical therapy treatment plan?
- Do you have other health concerns that could impact success?
- Do you have the time to commit to rehab?
Alternatives To Surgery
Before scheduling surgery or other invasive treatments, it’s important to understand all of your options. Pain can often be managed with home or office alterations, supplements, medications, injections, scopes, physical therapy and more.
Physical therapists are best positioned to realistically lay out what those options are. A physical therapist can offer advice that is balanced and holistic because they:
- Spend the most time with patients after the surgery; patients can spend months in physical therapy.
- Design recovery plans for patients who have chosen surgery, as well as for those who have decided against it.
- Have seen and worked through the pitfalls of post-surgical rehab.
- Can help you know what to try first and why (e.g., sometimes simpler, less-invasive options might not be enough to deal with the problem if you wait too long).
- Are the “boots on the ground” during the aftermath of surgery, for patients who were (and were not) good candidates.
At Clear Choice Physical Therapy in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, we can help you weigh the risks and rewards of surgery. We offer evaluations for patients looking to understand all of their recovery options, before making a final decision. You don’t need a prescription, just contact us today for an appointment.