Non-Surgical Treatment Options | Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine | Dartmouth-Hitchcock
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Non-Surgical Treatment Options

Many conditions that the Orthopaedics team cares for may be treated through non-surgical means. It is our philosophy that, whenever possible, patients should first try non-surgical treatment options before considering surgery.

What types of non-surgical treatment options are available?

There are several different non-surgical treatment options available that your physician, nurse practitioner, or physical therapist may prescribe. In many cases a physician may try more than one treatment option at a time. Treatment options will vary depending on the condition and the severity of the injury. Here are some common non-surgical treatments:

For more information about the non-surgical treatment option typically used for your condition, please see information about your specific condition.

Physical therapy and exercise (rehabilitation medicine)

For some conditions your doctor may prescribe physical therapy and/or exercises in order to strengthen or increase the mobility of the muscles, ligaments, and tissues around the area of the injury or condition. Conditions that may be helped by physical therapy or exercise include arthritis, shoulder instability, and lower back pain. Many times, exercise and physical therapy are also prescribed after surgical treatment options to ensure a full recovery.

Physical therapy may be helpful and your physician will provide you with a prescription. You can schedule an appointment with one of our physical therapists or a physical therapist in your community. The physical therapist will develop an exercise program that meets your needs based on your physical ability, condition, and your physician's diagnosis.

It is important to follow the exercises as prescribed by your physician or physical therapist to ensure the best results for recovery and healing. However, if you are still having problems, let your physician and physical therapist know right away and they will either try another treatment option or change your exercise routine.

Learn more about our physical therapy and rehabilitation services in Keene and Lebanon. Our Concord, Manchester, and Nashua teams refer patients to local physical therapists as needed.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) may be prescribed to reduce swelling, pain, or joint stiffness. Your doctor may prescribe NSAIDs for other conditions. Many different types of NSAIDs exist, some of which you can buy without a doctor's prescription, for example aspirin and Motrin. Tylenol is not an NSAID and is not used to reduce inflammation, but has been shown to be effective in relieving pain.

NSAIDs can cause side effects, especially if they are taken in large doses for a long time. Side effects may include upset stomach, gastritis, ulcers, headache, ringing in the ears, dizziness, rash, itching, easy bruising, fluid retention, and blood in the stool. If you are taking NSAIDs for a long time or in large doses you should consult your doctor about the risks of the drug.

Corticosteroids (injection and medication)

Corticosteroids are powerful drugs that may be prescribed to reduce inflammation if NSAIDs are not effective. These may be given as a pill or an injection. Your physician may prescribe corticosteroids to treat arthritis of a joint. Depending on the type of condition corticosteroids can be taken by injections or orally.

There are possible side effects of corticosteroids including changes in appearance (such as acne or increased facial hair); development of a round or moon-shaped face; thin, fragile skin that bruises easily; or movement of body fat to the trunk. You might also experience mood changes, personality changes, irritability, agitation, or depression. Other possible side effects include increased appetite and weight gain, poor wound healing, headache, glaucoma, irregular menstrual periods, peptic ulcer, muscle weakness, osteoporosis, steroid-induced diabetes, and osteonecrosis (damage to the hip joint that leads to severe arthritis).

Resting or stopping activity that causes pain

Sometimes the best medicine for certain conditions is to stop activity that causes pain to allow the muscles, tendons, or joints time to rest and heal. Depending on the severity of the condition, rest may be prescribed.

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