*Note: This article about surgery and physical therapy was written by one of our great team members, Susannah Azofeifa, PT, DPT.
Thinking About Having Surgery?
Oftentimes, when people hurt themselves they may think that undergoing surgery is the only option. However, this is far from the truth!
Physical therapy provides a low risk, highly beneficial option to address a recent injury or a chronic ache/pain that won’t seem to go away. While there is absolutely a time and place for surgical intervention, it may not always be the most beneficial first choice.
Below, I have put together a list of reasons you should opt for physical therapy before undergoing surgery (if your injury is not life-threatening, of course).
Here’s a list of reasons to choose PT 1st:
- Low Cost
- Low Risk
- High Benefit
- Possibility of avoiding surgery
Below, we dive into a bit more detail about each item on that list.
1. Lower cost than surgery
Physical therapy is relatively inexpensive and you can even see a physical therapist without a referral from a doctor. It is much less expensive to attend physical therapy for a few weeks vs. undergoing surgery!
2. Lower risk than surgery
While you may become sore following physical therapy, this is a very low risk option if you are injured and looking for a less invasive form of pain relief. It may also put you at ease knowing that physical therapists are educated extensively on certain patterns and red flags to look out for to know when/if a person needs to be referred back to a medical doctor for further consultation. As Rafi mentioned on our video about rotator cuff pain and surgery, research suggests giving conservative treatments like therapy a try before jumping to inherently more risky procedures, like surgery.
3. High benefit
Oftentimes, it can be very beneficial to see a physical therapist to reduce pain, restore function, and improve strength. A patient can work together with a physical therapist to come up with functional and individualized goals.
4. Possibility to avoid surgical intervention
When a person gets some form of imagining, they may be told something along the lines of: degenerative changes, bone on bone, bone spur, or rotator cuff tear – these are just a few examples. All of these things may scare a person, rightfully so. But, I am here to assure you that these are things that you can live with and sometimes even forget about. With an individualized plan of care that is developed alongside your physical therapist, there are many different ways to improve strength deficits, decrease pain, and improve function and mobility – all of which may be contributing to your symptoms. People may even return to their prior level of function, performing their daily activities without pain! This is a win-win situation!
If you injure yourself or have chronic, long standing pain and are unsure if surgery is the right option… go see a physical therapist! (Book an appointment with us here!) A physical therapist will work together with you to address your current complaints and improve your function. If symptoms worsen or do not improve, the next step involves referring the patient back to the doctor for further consultation. Whatever the scenario may be, physical therapy is a cost effective, non-invasive solution that can decrease symptoms and improve your quality of life!
 Benefits and Harms of Interventions With Surgery Compared to Interventions Without Surgery for Musculoskeletal Conditions: A Systematic Review With Meta-analysis. Søren T. Skou, Erik Poulsen, Alessio Bricca, Mette Dideriksen, L. Stefan Lohmander, Ewa M. Roos, and Carsten B. Juhl. Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy 2022 52:6, 312-344