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Do I Need a Joint Replacement or Is Physical Therapy My Answer?

Every year in the United States, well over a million joint replacement surgeries are performed, relieving painful symptoms and restoring mobility and function for people of all ages. There’s no doubt that joint replacement surgery is an appropriate choice for these patients — but for other people, physical therapy may be a good alternative to surgery.

At Powell Orthopedics and Sports Medicine, Thomas E. Powell, MD, and his team are dedicated to helping patients get the best and most appropriate care for their unique needs and lifestyles. In this post, learn why joint pain happens and how our team can help you decide whether physical therapy or surgery is a better choice for you.

The basics of joint pain

Millions of Americans suffer from joint pain, including chronic pain that takes a toll on everyday activities, like walking, climbing stairs, work activities, socializing — even sleeping. One reason why joint pain is so common is that lots of factors can cause or contribute to it.

Some of the most common causes of joint pain include:

Treatment for joint pain varies depending on the underlying cause, the symptoms you’re experiencing, the effect pain has on your life, and other factors.

Joint replacement surgery is typically reserved for people with traumatic injuries and specific joint diseases, like arthritis or osteonecrosis. By contrast, physical therapy can be an appropriate option for virtually all types of joint pain.

Physical therapy vs. surgery: Making the choice

Your underlying cause of joint pain is just one factor that helps determine if joint replacement surgery or physical therapy is a better option. In general, our team considers a variety of factors when deciding which option is better for you.

Physical therapy

Physical therapy uses a variety of exercises and activities focused on relieving pain, decreasing joint inflammation, and improving joint function and mobility. Therapy is completely customizable based on each patient’s physical health, symptoms, goals, and other factors.

Physical therapy can be a great choice for people with pain caused by mild to moderate arthritis, overuse injuries (like muscle strains), or “temporary” injuries, like sprains. Therapy sessions help patients strengthen the muscles that support their joints and learn how to modify activities and improve their lifestyles to help reduce or avoid pain in the future.

Interestingly, physical therapy is also used in patients who have joint replacement surgery, helping them recover and regain normal joint function and strength during the healing process.

Joint replacement surgery

Joint replacement surgery replaces damaged joints with artificial joint components designed to function like a natural joint. Typically, Dr. Powell recommends joint replacement surgery only after more conservative treatment options (like medication, lifestyle modifications, and physical therapy) have failed to provide relief.

He also recommends surgery for patients who:

If you have an underlying problem that makes surgery too risky or prevents you from actively participating in your recovery, we may suggest physical therapy and other medical treatments instead of surgery.

The only way to know which approach suits your needs and goals is to schedule a comprehensive joint health evaluation. During your visit, Dr. Powell and his team will examine your joints, evaluate your symptoms, and discuss your options, so you feel confident in your decision.

Committed to your joint health

Don’t let joint pain control your life or your happiness. We have solutions that can help. To learn more, call 205-606-5232 or request an appointment online with Powell Orthopedics and Sports Medicine in Vestavia Hills, Alabama, today.

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