Do You Really Need Surgery? Ask a PT Before Going Under the Knife

After suffering an injury many people’s first thought is “Will I need surgery?” Depending on the type of injury, surgery may not be the only option. Many patients have had a great deal of success with going through physical therapy before pursuing surgery. Physical therapy has proven to be highly successful in decreasing pain and improving range of motion, strength, and ability to perform normal daily activities in the home and at work, even for people who thought surgery was their only option.

The METEOR study (Meniscal Tear in Osteoarthritis Research) compared patients with knee arthritis who received physical therapy without surgery and those who underwent an arthroscopic knee partial meniscectomy (a.k.a. knee scope) surgery. Both groups improved similarly in function and pain. 1 Another study, published by the British Medical Journal, compared sciatica patients treated with surgery to patients who only received PT. According to that study, the patients who received surgery experienced short-term benefits but after six months there was no difference between patients who had undergone surgery and those who had received PT alone.2

Surgery is not always the quickest, or most effective, fix for pain and function. It is important to look at all options, as surgery entails healing time and often post-operative PT as well. Other than the physical stress of surgery, consider the emotional and financial stress that surgery may cause. If you are considering surgery, please reach out to your local Sports PT of NY clinic to set up an appointment. We will assess your injury and help you decide if you are a surgical candidate or if PT alone can restore your function.


Surgery vs. PT for a meniscal tear and OA. The NE Journal of Medicine. Published March 19, 2013.

Prolonged conservative care vs. early surgery in patients with sciatica caused by lumbar disc herniation: two-year results of a randomized controlled trial. Peul WC, et al. British Medical Journal. 2008; 336: 1355-8.