Considering Surgery? Try Physiotherapy First
If you’re living with ongoing pain in your ankle, neck, knee or back, you may have begun to wonder whether you’ll eventually need surgery to fix the problem.
A common question we’re asked as physiotherapists is, ‘Do I need surgery for my back/hip/knee/ankle/shoulder?’ It is a very good question to ask, as in many cases, conservative management (medications, exercise and hands on therapy) can provide as good as, if not better results than surgery.
Surgery can be seen as a quick fix that will deal with the problem. Surgery carries risks, including bleeding or clotting problems, infection, or a bad reaction to the anaesthetic. It can be costly, with bills from the hospital, surgeon, and anaesthetist if you’re going private, and ongoing post-surgery rehabilitation, where you’ll usually be referred to a physiotherapist to regain strength and flexibility in the affected area.
Surgery is a good option if you really need it. That’s the crucial bit. The physical risks, financial costs and recovery times associated with surgery are only worth it if the operation is likely to have significant benefits.
What Is Physiotherapy?
Physiotherapy can help you reduce pain and stiffness, move more easily, recover from injury and reduce the likelihood of getting injured again. Physiotherapy uses a range of non-invasive treatments including:
- Exercises and stretches to improve your movement (mobility) and muscle strength
- Joint manipulation or mobilisation
- Dry needling
- Laser therapy
Physiotherapists are trained to at least degree level though many have post-graduate qualifications too. You can book your own appointment to see a physio; you don’t need a doctor’s referral (though getting one may help with costs).
The decision to have surgery is not an easy one. In addition to the surgical risks consideration can also be given to time off work, recovery time, and out-of-pocket costs. With the right exercises, advice and attention, physiotherapy can change the way your body is moving, allow the body to heal and strengthen and in many cases, avoid the need for surgery.
If you’re interested in working on your body first, and considering surgery second, it is time to come and see us at Neurospace.
How Can Physiotherapy Help Prevent Surgery?
There are many common surgeries that could be delayed or even avoided with physiotherapy – hip replacement, knee arthroscopy, total knee replacement, spinal fusion, laminectomy for example.
A skilled physiotherapist may be able to help you avoid or delay the need for surgery on your ankle, neck, knee or back. And, if surgery does prove necessary, your efforts have not been wasted; having physiotherapy before surgery may help you bounce back more quickly afterwards.
Here’s a quick comparison of physiotherapy and surgery for some common conditions affecting the back, knees, fingers, neck and ankles.
Lumbar spinal stenosis: A study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found physiotherapy to be just as effective as surgery (and with fewer associated risks) in treating this type of lower back pain.
Degenerative disc disease: When followed-up five years later, there was no difference between patients who had had physiotherapy for their degenerative disc disease and those who’d had surgery in terms of pain levels, overall health, satisfaction levels and disability, according to a study at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia.
Meniscal tears and knee osteoarthritis: The evidence supports trying physiotherapy for meniscal tears and knee osteoarthritis before deciding on surgery. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that patients who had physiotherapy and those who had surgery gained equal improvements in the use of the knee and equal reductions in pain over a 6-12 month period. About 70% of physiotherapy-only patients were able to avoid surgery because the physical therapy was effective.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: After a month, patients having physiotherapy focused on the neck and median nerve were making faster improvements than patients who’d had surgery. After a year, the two groups had both made similar improvements in their grip strength, according to a study published in the Journal of Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy.
Neck pain: A 2013 review of the available evidence concluded that it’s hard to decide whether surgery or conservative treatment is best for neck pain. In itself, that’s an argument for avoiding the risks of surgery since there’s no clear evidence that it’s better than the alternatives. The researchers found that no particular intervention seemed to be consistently better than the other options and most patients found their neck pain improved over time.
Chronic ankle instability: Some people develop long-term ankle instability after a sprain. At the moment, it’s not clear whether physiotherapy to improve strength and coordination is better or worse than surgery to shorten and tighten your ankle ligaments.
How Neurospace May be Able to Help You
Your body may be capable of healing itself when given enough time and the right techniques.
We can help give you those at Neurospace. Our trained physiotherapists can carefully assess your condition and develop a tailored treatment plan for you. It may help you avoid the risks and costs of surgery on your neck, back, knees or ankles. If you do still need surgery, we can work with you on pre-op fitness and post-op rehabilitation, helping to minimise the risks and maximise your recovery.
Please book an appointment online or call us on 02 6162 0450.