Is Joint Replacement Always the Answer for Hip, Knee and Shoulder Pain?

Over the last several decades, the number of people undergoing hip, knee and shoulder joint replacement surgery has skyrocketed in the United States, particularly among those between the ages of 60 and 80 years old. In fact, it is estimated that more than a million Americans annually have a joint replaced. But is this popular medical procedure, often requiring a lengthy and challenging recovery period, always the best route to relieving or eliminating chronic joint stiffness, swelling and pain? Are other equally effective, but non-invasive forms of therapy being overlooked in the rush to embrace new technologies?

While it is ultimately up to each individual to make his or her own decision regarding joint replacement, at Hart Physical Therapy, we believe that an important first step in any treatment process begins with an in-depth examination of your condition to provide a baseline for all future rehabilitation strategies. That first step is known as a clinical differential diagnosis CDD,* a non-invasive evaluation performed by a physical therapist specialized in treating movement impairment and the root cause of pain.

Here in the United States, we are part of a health care system that is only now recognizing physical therapy as an effective, first-line approach to treating joint dysfunction and its accompanying pain. In the past, Western medicine has focused its treatment on the location of a person’s pain, an isolated joint, for example, and from there proceeded to prescription medications and/or surgery in the search for a remedy.

At Hart Physical Therapy, we treat joint pain as a symptom of poor neuromuscular and skeletal health. In addition to performing hands-on physiotherapy, we teach our patients the skills that help them to sit, stand and move in a pain-free manner. As part of our coordinated treatment program, patients come to understand that pain is not an inevitable part of the aging process and that working to modify everyday posture and movement patterns can bring about lasting improvements to their quality of life. Patients are also taught how to fine tune their sense of body awareness and increase their understanding of the kind of changes they need to make in order to stabilize or reverse their condition as they work to regain their health. These proven skills can empower, enlighten and finally open the doors to a healthier, more active lifestyle.

* DEFINITION OF THE CLINICAL DIFFERENTIAL DIAGNOSIS (CDD) At Hart Physical Therapy, we have developed an evaluation and treatment method that, when used in combination with X-rays, MRIs and other diagnostic tests, affords greater insight into the complex interplay between nervous, muscular, skeletal and connective tissue systems. This multi-system approach is essential in providing an appropriate therapy plan as well as in determining the need for surgical intervention.