When you’re an athlete, an eventual injury is almost inevitable. Whether you participate in a full-contact sport like football or just do gentle yoga, the risk of injury from accident or overuse is always present. When you see your sports medicine professional, don’t be surprised if they don’t immediately recommend surgery to address your injury.
It may be odd to think of someone avoiding the very thing they’re trained for. A pilot who doesn’t want to fly or an architect who is reluctant to design buildings would certainly raise some eyebrows. The thing is, surgeons are—first and foremost—healthcare providers. Their goal is to maintain your quality of life for as long as possible. While some injuries may very well require some surgery to repair, a good surgeon will try an appropriate conservative measure first.
What are Conservative Measures?
Conservative measures are noninvasive treatment methods used in an attempt to improve your condition without surgery. They can consist of the following.
- Medications: Pain medications and anti-inflammatories may be prescribed by your sports medicine provider in Denver. These medicines can ease your pain and reduce swelling. They’re often prescribed for short-term problems or mild irritations of the joints.
- Rest: This is the simplest conservative measure. A lot of sports injuries result from simply overdoing it. If your sports medicine provider wants you to take it easy for a while, listen to them. It might prevent further, more severe injury.
- Ice/Heat: The proper application of ice and/or heat to an injured area can help with swelling, range of motion, and pain. Sometimes this is all it takes to get you back to 100 percent after a mild injury.
- Bracing: With repetitive stress injuries like tennis elbow and carpal tunnel syndrome, a brace is sometimes prescribed to help ease symptoms. Be sure to wear your brace as instructed to gain the maximum benefit.
- Physical Therapy: A course of physical therapy with a qualified therapist is often recommended by Denver sports medicine providers. If improvement can be made during physical therapy, surgery can sometimes be avoided or postponed.
Benefits of Conservative Measures
So, what’s so great about avoiding surgery, anyway? While surgery is almost always unavoidable for certain injuries, like complete ACL tears in the knee and ruptured biceps tendons, it’s usually not the preferred method of dealing with sports injuries. For one, surgery carries a longer downtime than conservative measures. Your surgical recovery period means no training for a while and a reduced training regimen for even longer.
Another factor is that surgery never comes with an absolute guarantee. Each case is unique, and even an experienced, highly-trained surgeon cannot promise a certain outcome. Therefore, it’s possible that, even with surgery, your injury may never completely return to normal. Surgery is simply another treatment modality, not a magic fix.
So, even if you eventually need surgery for a sports injury, expect your sports medicine provider to try some conservative treatments first. With luck and adherence to their advice, you might be able to avoid surgery altogether.