Alternative therapy for chronic ailments

If you’re suffering from debilitating pain caused by an injury or aging, you want long-term relief…and you want it fast. Many people think surgery and medications are their best options for treating chronic ailments like low back pain, knee injuries and degenerative disk disease. But they may not be. Both surgery and medications may provide some temporary relief, but not without potential risks and significant side effects.

Doctors have found that when treating several types of chronic pain, physical therapy is just as effective – and sometimes longer lasting – than surgery or medication. Plus, the only “side effects” are increased physical fitness, better mobility, and improved health.

The Downsides of Surgery and Medications
Every surgery involves risk. From bad reactions to anesthesia, excessive bleeding and post-operative infections, surgical complications, while rare, sometimes become a reality. In addition, specific surgeries have their own unique set of unique risks. For example, surgery to alleviate lower back pain puts you at risk for nerve damage that can lead to weakness, loss of bladder and bowel control, and paralysis in some rare cases.

Medications, even over-the-counter varieties like acetaminophen and ibuprofen, also come with their own list of risks and side effects. When used over a long period to treat pain, they can cause stomach ulcers, bleeding and may hurt your kidneys and liver.

For these reasons, many doctors like to take a more conservative treatment approach before recommending surgery and medications.

How and When Physical Therapy Can Help
In several studies, researchers compared physical therapy to surgical treatment for results such as pain relief, health status, disability, and overall satisfaction. They found that there was no increased benefit of having surgery compared to physical therapy for several conditions, including:

  • Low back pain
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Degenerative disk disease
  • Meniscal tears
  • Knee osteoarthritis
  • Rotator cuff tears

Based on these results, many doctors will now recommend physical therapy before trying a more invasive surgical solution or medication.

What to Expect from Physical Therapy
If your doctor recommends physical therapy before moving on to surgery or medications, you may be wondering what to expect during your appointment. Typically, the physical therapist will start by asking questions about your health and specific condition. They will perform a detailed examination to evaluate your strength, flexibility, balance, coordination and posture. They will then work with you to create a plan to reach your goals, which will include alleviating your pain and improving your ability to perform your daily activities and tasks.

While physical therapy is less invasive and risky than surgery or medication, it’s not necessarily easy. You’ll be expected to be an active participant in your treatment, which can be challenging at times. This includes performing the exercises and activities recommended by your physical therapist, keeping your therapy appointments, and following up with your doctor regularly. Performing the home exercises and activities prescribed by your physical therapist are as vital to your healing process as the ones you do during your therapy sessions.

Most people experience significant improvements in mobility and pain relief as a reward for the hard work of physical therapy – all without the added risks of surgery and medications.

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About Crozer Keystone Staff

Crozer-Keystone Health System’s physicians, specialists and advanced practitioners are committed to improving the health of our community through patient-centered, quality care across a full continuum of health services. Crozer Brinton Lake is Crozer-Keystone’s comprehensive outpatient care facility in western Delaware County, offering primary care, specialty services, outpatient surgery and advanced cancer treatment. Contact us: 300 Evergreen Drive, Glen Mills, PA 19342 http://www.crozerkeystone.org/Brinton-Lake 1-855-254-7425

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