Tools to manage joint pain if you aren’t ready to consider surgery

Joint surgery helps many people with hip or knee pain live life well—but it’s not the only option. If you aren’t ready to consider surgery, there are still steps you can take to manage your joint pain and increase your quality of life.

One of the best ways to manage joint pain without surgery is physical therapy. A physical therapist can help you develop an exercise plan that meets your needs and lifestyle while improving function in muscles and joints and reducing pain, swelling and stiffness. Based on your activities and habits, they can help you find workarounds for painful activities and easier ways to perform important tasks.

But physical therapists can take on more than just exercises—they can also teach proper posture, demonstrate use of assistive devices like canes or walkers and recommend supportive accessories like braces, splints or shoe inserts. Finally, they can help you adjust your environment to your needs by recommending simple steps such as lowering shelves, adding a railing or removing throw rugs. 

PT in the big picture 

Physical therapy often works in tandem with other methods to help manage joint pain. Low-impact aerobic exercise, like cycling, swimming or using an elliptical machine, can help build strength without putting additional strain on the joints. Meanwhile, regular stretching, especially in the morning when the body tends to be stiff from a night of sleep, can ease muscle tension. Doctors may recommend basic pain relievers (like acetaminophen) and anti-inflammatories (like ibuprofen, naproxen and other NSAIDs, or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory options)—but, as with all medication, it’s very important to consult with your doctor before beginning a treatment plan. Another common medical option is a regimen of injections to the joint in question; some of the most common are cortisone, which reduces inflammation, and viscosupplementation, which provides additional lubrication for the joint. 

Questions about joint replacement or physical therapy? Talk with your primary care provider about caring for your joints and check out our rehabilitation services web page. To schedule an appointment with one of our physical therapists, call 320.225.3356