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Published on June 23, 2017

How to heal an orthopedic injury without surgery

By Andrew Rudins, M.D.


Southeastern Sports Medicine and Orthopedics, a department of Pardee UNC Health Care

While some orthopedic injuries require surgery, many can be healed with less invasive approaches. The following injuries can often be treated with nonsurgical methods:

• Joint sprains

• Muscle strains

• Stress factures

• Tendinitis

Keep in mind that even though you may not need surgery, getting proper treatment is crucial. Otherwise, you could risk the development of chronic tissue damage or a joint injury, which ultimately may require surgery.

Nonsurgical treatment options for orthopedic injuries

If a patient does not need surgery, I usually recommend the RICE method to treat the injury:

• Rest. This can be as simple as decreased activity and protected motion, or involve casting or bracing to stabilize the area and limit movement.

• Ice. Ice reduces inflammation to the injured body part.

• Compression. Using an ACE wrap or an elastic brace or sleeve can help reduce swelling and support the injured area.

• Elevation. Placing the injured part above heart level will also help reduce swelling.

Medications can also be prescribed to decrease acute inflammation and the associated pain and swelling.

Once the injury has begun to heal, we will use early rehabilitation to help patients regain maximal function and prevent re-injury, such as:

• Progressive range of motion and stretching exercises

• Strengthening and coordination exercises

If, despite these methods, recovery is slow, we can offer injections, including:

• Corticosteroids for chronic inflammation

• Regenerative injections, such as prolotherapy or platelet-rich plasma, to assist with healing and strengthening injured structures

The bottom line: Don’t ignore your injury. If it’s not treated appropriately, you may have further damage and potentially require surgery.

If you experience an injury to your muscles, joints, ligaments or tendons, visit one of our weekday morning walk-in clinics to be evaluated by a medical professional. Once you have the correct diagnosis, you can begin the appropriate treatment plan.