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Therapy vs. Surgery for Osteoarthritis: What's the Best Option?


doctor looking at image of arthritic knee

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease that affects millions of people worldwide. It occurs when the protective cartilage that cushions the joints starts to wear away, causing the bones to rub against each other and leading to pain, stiffness, and reduced mobility. While there are several treatment options available for osteoarthritis, such as medication, physical therapy, and surgery, choosing the best one can be challenging. In this blog post, we'll compare two popular treatment options for osteoarthritis: therapy and surgery.


Physical Therapy for Osteoarthritis

Physical therapy is an effective non-surgical treatment option for osteoarthritis. A physical therapist will create a personalized exercise program to help you manage your symptoms and improve your joint function. The exercises may include stretching, strength training, and low impact activities to help manage the pain and inflammation associated with osteoarthritis.


Physical therapy can also help you maintain a healthy weight, which is crucial for managing osteoarthritis symptoms. Overweight and obese individuals experience more frequent and severe symptoms due to the added stress on weight-bearing joints like the hips and knees. Your therapist may recommend changes to your diet and lifestyle to help you lose weight and reduce your risk of further joint damage.


Surgery for Osteoarthritis

Surgery is usually recommended for severe osteoarthritis cases that do not respond to non-surgical treatments. There are several types of surgery available, such as joint replacement, osteotomy, and arthroscopy. Joint replacement surgery is the most common procedure that involves removing the damaged joint and replacing it with a prosthetic one. The surgery offers significant pain relief and improved joint function, but it comes with complications, including infection, blood clotting, and implant loosening.


Osteotomy and arthroscopy are less invasive surgical techniques that aim to realign the affected joint or remove the damaged tissue, respectively. Osteotomy is usually recommended for younger patients with misaligned knee joints, while arthroscopy is used to remove damaged cartilage and bone fragments from the joint.


Which Option is Better?

The choice between therapy and surgery for osteoarthritis depends on several factors, such as the severity of your condition, your age, and overall health. Patients with mild to moderate osteoarthritis can benefit from physical therapy, which can help reduce symptoms, regain mobility, and maintain a healthy weight. Surgery is usually reserved for severe cases that do not respond to therapy or medication. Your doctor may recommend surgery only after exploring all non-surgical options.


In conclusion, therapy and surgery are two viable treatment options for osteoarthritis. Physical therapy is an effective non-surgical option for managing mild to moderate osteoarthritis symptoms, improving joint function, and maintaining a healthy weight. Surgery is usually recommended for severe cases that do not respond to non-surgical treatments. If you're struggling with osteoarthritis, it's crucial to consult with your doctor to determine the best course of treatment for your individual needs.

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