When it comes to health, one of the biggest questions we get from people that call and come in for treatment is whether or not they should have surgery for a certain condition.
Sometimes doctors, or even patients, feel that surgery is going to be the magic bullet - you get the surgery and you're perfectly fine after you “heal up”. And while there are cases where surgery is warranted, there's also the other part of recovery that’s easy to forget about...
If you think about the reason why these people are in the operating room in the first place, there are a bunch of underlying problems that brought them there. It’s because of how they're moving, their strength, their mobility, or how stable they are on that body part that they're coming in for.
Regardless of if you decide to get surgery, you will still need to work hard to address and regain that lost control, strength, flexibility, or mobility if you want to get out of pain and get to where you want to be.
Researchers studied a sample of patients who suffered from a torn meniscus. A portion of the group decided to directly undergo surgery, while the remaining decided to go with the physical therapy route.
The rehab results? The same on both sides.
Another research study on spinal surgeries found that amongst the 35% success rate of surgeries, many of those “successful” surgeries still left patients with unresolved pain.
Why might this be?
Let's say you've been struggling with back pain for 5 or 10 years. You decide to get surgery, and you think you're going to be perfectly fine afterwards. But what you might forget is that your back pain has been keeping you from using your body CORRECTLY for 5 or 10 years, so you will need to build all of that back up.
Let’s take a look at our client Tom. Tom enjoys a super active lifestyle, and he loves hiking long distances of 10- to 15-miles a day. He came in to see us for ankle pain that he felt whenever he went hiking, and was desperate to finally get rid of the pain so he could get back to the great outdoors. Fortunately, he wanted to give physical therapy a try first to see if that would help him at all, and fortunately, it did!
Before, Tom would have only been able to trek through 3 miles before the ankle pain set in… However, with his hard work and dedication to physical therapy to heal his injury naturally, as well as address the mechanics of his body that needed to be corrected, Tom is now able to walk on and on, with the only pain he feels being muscle soreness that typically comes with any regular exercise.
Because Tom decided to give physical therapy a try, not only was he able to HEAL his ankle naturally, but he was able to SKIP SURGERY, skip the even longer down time that surgery would have added to his time away from enjoying his hikes, and most importantly he regained his lost independence.
So why not try physical therapy first to see if that helps at all? If it still doesn't help get you to where you want to be, and you're still in pain, then go ahead with the surgery. This way, at least you're more prepared for what happens afterwards. You're already trained and strengthened. You learn how to move in the right way, so that when you're back from surgery, rehab won't take as long, and it'll be easier for you, too.
if you have questions regarding your individual situation, feel free to leave a comment below, or contact our office at (626) 365-1380, and we are always happy to help.
Dr. Daphne Tan, PT, DPT
Dr. Jason Han, PT, DPT