When you’re in pain, the last thing you want to hear is that you have to have surgery in order to get relief. For most people, surgery is a scary thing! Thankfully, in some cases, there are other options available. Unfortunately for others, surgery may be the only option.
If you fall in the “other options may work” category, there are several non-surgical pain relief options you can try prior to settling for surgery.
Here are some non-surgical pain relief options:
Physical Therapy - Physical therapy is a great option for those who want to avoid having surgery. At Envision Sport, we use many different modalities to aide in the rehabilitative process. In addition to strengthening exercises that are Pilates-based, we also offer laser treatments, ultrasound, heat/ice, and STIM. We develop a personalized combination of these modalities to create the best treatment plan for our patients. Additionally, many doctors will refer you to physical therapy as the first step in the rehabilitation process. While some doctors may be more surgery-minded, others want you to start with the least abrasive approach first – that being physical therapy. Even if surgery is the end result, the strength you gain in physical therapy will be beneficial!
Strengthening Exercises - Doing exercises that will help increase strength and improve range of motion can help alleviate pain. The important thing to remember about strength exercises is that while injured, exercises should be low-impact and not strenuous. Focus on small movements and light weights. Good form is the most important! The muscles in your body act as a support system for your joints. When the muscles are strengthened, there is less stress on the joint. As an example, consider a back injury. If you are experiencing pain in your lower back, it is recommended that you spend time strengthening your core. Your core acts as a support system to the back and can help alleviate the pain you are experiencing. Same thing applies to other areas of the body. If you are having pain in your knee, strengthening your hamstring, gluteals, adductors, and quadriceps can help reduce your pain. However, it is important to remember to strengthen the muscles of the body evenly. For example, if you over develop your quad and neglect your gluteals and hamstrings, you may actually cause more stress on the knee as the quad pulls the structures within the knee outward.
Weight Loss - Losing weight is especially helpful in reducing pain in the lower extremity. When someone is overweight, there is a lot of added pressure to the joints, especially those in the hips, knees, and ankles. For every pound lost, 3 pounds of pressure is taken off of each knee and around 6 pounds of pressure is taken off the hips. When you carry extra weight over an extended period of time, the likelihood of developing arthritis increases! The good news? You don’t have to lose 50 pounds to notice a difference. Losing 5-10 pounds can greatly help. If you are a candidate for surgery, some doctors may suggest or even require that you lose weight first. The incidence of re-injury can increase if you are considered overweight.
Anti-Inflammatory Medications - Known as NSAIDs (Non-Steroid Anti-Inflammatory Drugs) these medications help reduce the inflammation in your joints, therefore relieving pain. Some common NSAIDs are Ibuprofen (Advil), Naproxen (Aleve), & Aspirin. These drugs are not the best option for long-term use, but are helpful during the first stages of injury. It is recommended you check with your primary care provider to ensure that you are able to use an anti-inflammatory without causing any additional health problems. If the above anti-inflammatories provide no relief, you may want to see a doctor. Depending on the amount of inflammation you have, they may prescribe you a steroid pack (often Medrol). These steroid packs are very powerful and are not intended for long-time use. Your physician will guide you with the appropriate anti-inflammatory for your condition taking into account your other medical conditions.
Injections - If you are trying to avoid surgery, your orthopedic surgeon or pain specialist may have you try injections, most commonly cortisone. In some individuals, injections alleviate pain completely whereas other patients get relief for only a few months. One of the most commonly asked questions about injections is “How many can you get?” Most medical professionals say about 3 per year, but that is a conversation you need to have with them directly.
Again - surgery is scary and no one, not even a surgeon, would blame you for looking for an alternative option. Although surgery may be inevitable, it doesn't hurt to try some things like physical therapy, anti-inflammatories, and exercise to see if you get any relief. Always be sure to consult with your doctor to make sure the things you are trying are safe for you to try and will not cause your body any harm!
If you would like to get started with physical therapy or would like to speak with one of our Doctors of Physical Therapy about your injury, we would love to help! With over 13 years of experience treating a wide variety of injuries, we are familiar with what things have worked and what things have not for our patients. Chances are - we've seen your injury!