When is it time to get surgery?


This months blog is on another common questions that we as therapists get asked on a frequent basis.  This can often be a loaded question with multiple right answers, but I’m going to give you my best recommendation on when it may be best to get a surgical consult

1.When the constant pain is bad enough you can’t live off 2 Aleve a day.

  • This is a quote I heard from an orthopedic surgeon that got asked the same question at a physical therapy conference.  It isn’t very specific when it comes to function, but if pain is a main driving factor, then this may be a reasonable answer.

2.  When you can’t do your normal activities of daily living without pain.

  • This is a more typical answer from a physical therapist.  We are always working towards function and your ability to return to the activities that you love.  We basically follow 3 levels on your return to your activities.  First, get you out of constant pain, or at least make it liveable.  Two, return you to a level of pain free(or less pain) function with activities of daily living.  Third, return you to your recreational activities.  If you can’t get to level two without decreased pain, then it may be time for surgery.

3.  When your losing strength and ROM even with an exercise program.

  • This can vary quite a bit depending on the patient, but basically if you are loosing your strength and ROM even while doing therapy then it may be time to get the surgery done.  You can actually wait too long to get surgery done, especially when it comes to a total joint replacement.  If you are seeing muscle loss or decreased ROM, despite trying to strengthen/stretch it.  It may be time to get the surgery done, before you have even more rehab to do after.

There are obviously a lot more reasons why you may or may not be a surgical candidate, but these are just a few of the things we look at when helping you decide your next course of action after therapy.  We are always here to answer questions!