Injuries to bones, muscles and joints happen for a variety of reasons, such as sports injuries, falls, accidents and simple wear and tear as our bodies age.
Just as the reasons for injuries may vary, so too do available treatment options — and understanding options is an essential factor in achieving the right solution for every patient and every injury.
While surgical intervention is sometimes a recommended first option, conservative, non-surgical treatment interventions may be a better option for certain orthopedic injuries before turning to surgery. The prevailing idea here is that just because surgery can be performed, doesn’t always mean that it should be.
Patients appreciate knowing they have choices, including non-surgical treatment or non-invasive treatment. Let’s define what non-surgical treatment means, then explore three non-surgical treatment options in greater depth, which are medication, physical therapy and injections.
Defining non-surgical treatment
Even when surgery is a consideration, some patients aren’t candidates for surgery due to other medical conditions that increase surgical risk. At other times, patients may simply be reluctant to pursue surgery because of a fear of the unknown or fear of the lengthy recovery time. Regardless of their reasons, both groups of patients elect instead to live with and manage the pain associated with the injury.
The goal of non-operative orthopedic treatment is to improve a patient’s quality of life, minimize pain and maximize function without making incisions into the body or removing any tissue. Instead, the specialist seeks out the right alternatives to surgery, developing the best individualized treatment plan for their needs to alleviate pain as quickly as possible.
Non-invasive treatment options offer patients numerous benefits:
· No incisions mean no wounds, no scarring and no risk of infection
· Progress and improvement can be under a patient’s own control
· Because non-invasive treatments are on an outpatient basis, no hospital stays are required
· Patients often enjoy a gradual return to normal function with less disruption to activities of daily life
These three non-invasive treatments offer alternatives to surgery and often lead to successful recovery and appropriate pain control.
1: Physical therapy
This option aims to improve movement, functional ability and overall well-being and quality of life after an injury through focused exercises and body manipulations. Trained physical therapists use manual therapy methods to improve the alignment and flexibility of bones and soft tissues, helping to reduce pain and improve function. It includes strengthening and stretching exercises to restore movement and coordination, and the use of assistive devices to help patients carry out activities more comfortably. Physical therapy can help people move with less pain, allowing them to return to a more active lifestyle.
Medications are drug treatment options that can be given orally, via the skin as a cream or ointment, or by inhalation or breathing in. Medications serve the purpose of helping control symptoms, and not always directly impacting the healing process.
Intravenous injection is another way to administer medication, which we’ll address next. Each method has advantages and disadvantages, and not all methods can be used for every drug.
There are advantages to non-invasive drug administration options — mainly, they’re preferred by patients for ease and convenience.
In many cases, non-invasive medications are used to treat symptoms of an injury, illness or problem with the body by reducing swelling, pain or stiffness. One example is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, or NSAID, which can be used to reduce inflammation, pain and swelling, and are sometimes available over the counter such as ibuprofen or naproxen. Additionally, all medications carry the risk of side effects, so when considering the use of an oral, topical or inhaled medication for the treatment of a musculoskeletal condition, you should seek the advice of a trained musculoskeletal specialist.
Injections fall into the minimally invasive orthopedic treatment category because delivery requires penetrating the skin. Injections are often associated with lower risks and complications, and when used appropriately, can be an effective option when other forms of medication may not be the best option.
Common examples of minimally invasive orthopedic treatments may include:
· Joint injections
· Spine injections
· Soft tissue injections
The use of injections, like the use of other medications, carry inherent risks and should be discussed with a trained musculoskeletal specialist.
All three non-surgical treatment options — physical therapy, medication and injections — offer patients convenient options that cause much less pain or harm to the body when used appropriately and can get patients back to improved levels of function and quality of life without surgery. Our experts at Rothman Orthopaedics can help you determine which routes may be the best fit for your individual diagnosis.
About Rothman Orthopaedics
When it comes to deciding on treatment for an injury, it’s important to weigh all your options. Our non-operative orthopedic treatment specialists can provide many options for you as you decide how to move forward in your recovery journey.
Learn more by listening to The Breakdown, a series of our popular podcasts that address a range of topics, including a conversation among non-operative orthopedic specialists. If you’d like to start a conversation, we invite you to make an appointment for an office or virtual visit.