It is important to understand that surgery is not the only treatment option when dealing with joint injuries and problems. In some cases, a non-operative route may be as good, if not better, than a surgical treatment plan. Non-operative options include physiotherapy and exercises to build up the muscles and provide better joint stability, along with stretching exercises to improve range of motion and reduce joint stiffness. You might also be recommended to modify your activities to limit those which cause pain or discomfort, to rest in order to allow the injury to heal or the joint to recover, and to use braces and other devices to support the joint.
There are many factors to consider when thinking about surgery. These vary depending on the particular problem or injury but include the following: the age of the individual, the individual’s current and desired activity levels, symptoms such as pain or joint instability, damage to other structures in the joint, and the risk of worsening damage. All of these factors should be considered when choosing a treatment plan. The decision of whether or not to proceed with surgery will be a decision made jointly between you and your healthcare team, based on the risks and benefits. A non-operative treatment plan will typically be considered first, prior to surgery.
All surgeries involve some risks. These include but are not limited to bleeding, infection, pain, joint stiffness, weakness, scarring, and nerve injury. Nevertheless, in many cases surgery can alleviate symptoms, dramatically improve the function of the joint, and allow an individual to achieve all of their physical activity goals and return to their pre-injury level of sports.
Another important consideration regarding surgery is the amount of work and rehabilitation needed after surgery in order for it to be a success. The surgery itself may only take a couple of hours, but the rehabilitation afterwards could take months. Before considering surgery, an individual must be willing and motivated to put the time and effort in to the rehabilitation program afterwards, which will probably include a mixture of physiotherapy and home exercises to increase strength and mobility. This is essential for a successful outcome, and is particularly vital in the first couple of weeks following surgery. It’s like a relay race; Dr. Murnaghan will perform the first leg, and then will pass the baton on to you to finish the race. The rehab afterwards is just as important as the surgery itself.