Adventures in Retirement- Rehabilitation vs. surgery –which is the best solution?

Written by Bill Leavitt. Posted in Featured, Senior Living

Published on April 03, 2019 with No Comments

Sooner or later, most of us will face joint problems and need to decide how to treat them.   Doctors often recommend joint replacement or joint repair, since that provides nearly immediate results.  Also, it impacts the pain sooner.  Sometimes, rehabilitation or “rehab” of the joint or muscles is also an effective solution.

However, is surgery the best solution?  The answer is maybe.  My wife and I have both gone through joint issues in the past year. Our respective treatments reveal the pros and cons of each solution.

I have a torn rotator cuff plus some additional muscle damage.  I began by rehabbing at home, but after several months I didn’t see much progress. I then got an MRI and was sent to a joint doctor.  He recommended surgery but agreed to try other alternatives.  Eventually, I went to a physical therapy firm.  They were able to target problem areas and create treatments that decreased pain, increased muscle strength and improved range of motion.

More importantly, they provided a program that I could do at home for ongoing therapy.  While I still have a little pain and have a long way to go towards complete healing, I can see continuous improvement.  The key to my success is having the discipline to do the program at home every day.

On the other hand, my wife started rehab for a hip problem.  She was having a lot of pain, especially after a few minutes of walking.  The rehab did not help her condition and the pain was debilitating.  Eventually she opted for surgery and had hip replacement.  It was entirely successful and eliminated the pain almost immediately.

Five months after the surgery, she was walking normally.  A key to her successful program was a special rehab program leading up to the surgery. It was designed to improve the muscles around the hip and also build strength in her shoulders so she could lift herself up until the hip was healed enough to help her get up.

I helped her with both the pre-surgery rehab and the post-surgery rehab.  Her recovery was nearly miraculous.  She was able to get on her feet the same day as the surgery and got rid of her walker and cane within two months.  This was an ideal combination of surgery and rehab working together.

Only you and your doctor can determine which program is best for your situation.  However, there is rarely a downside to trying rehab first.  You should create a mindset that rehab is the only way to cure your problem so you will commit to it.  You’ll know after a month or so whether it is the ideal solution to your problem.


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About Bill Leavitt


All opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Chronicle. Bill Leavitt is a technical writer from Valparaiso. After retiring from a large corporation in Chicago, he did technical writing consulting for many companies. He currently teaches part-time at Purdue University Calumet. You can order Leavitt’s book, “Retirement: Life’s Greatest Adventure,” by sending $16.65 (includes shipping and sales tax) made payable to Write On Technical Writing, Inc., P.O. Box 132,Valparaiso, IN 46384-0132. Or, visit RetirementLifesGreatestAdventure.com for more information.

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