Do pain and mobility issues keep you from performing everyday activities? Has your physician told you that surgery is the only answer? Many people across America suffer from medical conditions — such as back pain, osteoarthritis, or the lingering effects of an injury — that affect their quality of life. You may be worried that surgery is the only way to get relief from your symptoms but, fortunately, other treatment options may be available to you.
By scheduling a consultation with one of our surgeons, you can learn about all of your treatment options. There may be minimally-invasive treatments for your condition with less risk and little to no recovery times. Additionally, our surgeons can help you assess whether your chronic pain is, in fact, severe enough to warrant surgery. In many cases, non-invasive treatment options may be available to you. Below, learn about effective, commonly recommended alternatives to surgery, as well as what options you have when you’re unsure about your doctor’s surgery recommendation.
Common alternatives to surgery
There are a number of reasons that your physician may have recommended surgery, such as treating a back injury, relieving joint pain, or lessening the effects of carpal tunnel syndrome. The decision to schedule a surgery usually isn’t an easy one. Planning for the recovery, time away from work, and lost wages that often accompany an operation can be incredibly stressful for even the most prepared patient.
Fortunately, there is a wide range of surgical alternatives that can be tried to alleviate your symptoms without having surgery. When you schedule a consultation with one of our top surgeons, you can determine whether you are a candidate for alternative treatment options, such as:
Physical therapy—Physical therapy has been found to be as successful as surgery in treating certain types of lower back pain, including lumbar spinal stenosis. It can also be used to treat joint conditions such as knee pain caused by arthritis or a torn meniscus. A physical therapist will create a personalized exercise regimen and guide you through exercises aimed at increasing your muscle strength around the affected joint or area. This can help decrease pain and improve mobility and blood flow. A physical therapist may use ice, heat, or electrical nerve stimulation in addition to traditional exercises and stretching.
Massage treatment—According to the Arthritis Foundation, massage therapy can be an effective technique for treating pain and immobility caused by arthritis. Getting a massage can help promote relaxation and better sleep while easing pain and tension. Many different massage techniques can be used to address the affected areas. However, it is important to verify that your massage therapist is licensed and experienced in helping to alleviate the symptoms of your specific condition.
Medications—There are a variety of medications that may help with your pain and mobility issues. For example, over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications, also known as NSAIDs, may help decrease the amount of pain and swelling in the affected area. Additionally, your doctor may prescribe certain painkillers, joint supplements, or cortisone shots to help decrease your symptoms. For example, a corticosteroid injection in the affected area can reduce inflammation and pain, and its effects can last up to two months or longer. Hyaluronic acid injections can also be used to help lubricate the affected joint, which can decrease symptoms of pain and immobility.
Weight loss—Carrying excess weight can exponentially increase the daily strain that you put on your joints, especially your knee joints. This added strain can cause the cartilage in your joint to break down quicker, contributing to osteoarthritis symptoms. Sometimes, losing weight can decrease the amount of pain caused by osteoarthritis, according to the Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center. Even small amounts of weight loss can cause significant decreases in joint pain.
Diet and lifestyle modifications—For some people, implementing small diet and lifestyle changes can help make chronic pain and mobility issues more manageable. For example, a 2002 study found that the anti-inflammatory properties of omega-3 fatty acids may be helpful in managing inflammatory diseases such as arthritis. This means that patients with pain and immobility due to arthritis may see improvement in their symptoms by simply increasing their intake of omega-3 fatty acids. Additionally, some exercise programs may alleviate symptoms of arthritis and other conditions that cause chronic pain.
These minimally-invasive treatment options have the potential to treat chronic conditions without the physical toll of a major surgery. Your medical history and the specifics of your situation will help your physician decide if one or more of these alternatives to surgery are right for you.
Is surgery even necessary?
Getting back to your normal activity level after surgery can be daunting and many people, understandably, question whether surgery is the best choice for their specific situation. Some conditions such as joint stiffness, back pain, or ligament tears may not require immediate surgery, if they require surgery at all. When your symptoms do not affect your everyday life, the benefits of major surgery may not outweigh the physical and emotional costs. If your pain is minor or infrequent and your condition is not contributing to other health issues, your physician may advise you that surgery is not needed. Of course, only a doctor that knows your condition and medical history will be able to tell you for sure whether surgery is necessary.
What if my doctor already told me that surgery was the only answer?
Different physicians may approach certain medical conditions in different ways, meaning that some may recommend non-surgical treatment options where others typically rely on surgery. Additionally, some doctors may be aware of surgery alternatives that others are not familiar with. If your primary care physician has said that an operation is your only treatment option, but you still have questions or doubts, there are additional resources available to you.
No matter the situation, you always have the right to ask for a second opinion. This is a normal, accepted practice in the medical community that you should take advantage of. Your primary care physician will not be offended if you ask another doctor for a second opinion. Whether the second opinion confirms or differs from your doctor’s original recommendations, you will gain additional valuable insight into your condition and treatment options.
Keep a record of what each physician says, along with any non-surgical treatments that you have tried. When you are informed about your medical history and current condition, you are better able to make confident decisions regarding your healthcare needs. Remember, you have a say in all of your medical treatments.
Schedule a consultation with one of our top surgeons today
Carrum Health aims to help its members live a pain-free life, and that doesn’t always have to include surgery. Getting a second opinion from one of our experienced surgeons is the first step in determining which treatment options, including potential non-surgical alternatives, are available to you. There is no commitment required after the initial consultation.
We will help collect your medical history and make sure that you have access to the right diagnostic imaging tests, giving one of our expert surgeons a comprehensive view of your condition. They will be able to determine the best treatment options for your specific situation and, with that information, you will be free to make an informed decision on your next steps.