How soon can I have my treatment?

Physicians participating in Care Decisions will never immediately decide on a course of treatment (unless your condition is truly an emergency situation). The time between the initial consultation and treatment may be a few days or a few weeks — it will entirely depend on the care path the patient and doctor choose. Pharmaceutical intervention will be as fast as the pharmacy can fill a prescription, physical therapy may be scheduled later that week, and surgery may be scheduled anywhere from a few days to a few weeks away. Once it is clear what type of treatment a patient should receive, physicians can give a better sense of how long it will take to start the treatment.

When should I come to the hospital?

If patients are in chronic pain due to their condition or they have concerns about other symptoms, they should schedule an appointment with their doctor right away to discuss options for treatment. For the conditions described on this website, there is a wide range of treatment options, from medication, to physical therapy, and even surgery. Patients won’t know what the best treatment is for them until they talk to a doctor. To find a Mass General Brigham physician who participates in Care Decisions, visit our Participating Providers page. If you are having acute, severe symptoms (like sudden shortness of breath or you are suddenly unable to walk) seek care at the nearest emergency room or dial 911.  

How long will I be in the hospital?

It depends on what type of treatment you are having and how good your overall health is. If you are prescribed medication or physical therapy, you may never go to the hospital. Some surgical patients go home after only one night in the hospital, while others stay for a few days. Patients may also be transferred from the hospital to a rehabilitation facility. Every patient is different, but doctors can give patients a better idea of how long their unique hospital stay may be.

What happens when I’m prescribed medication as a treatment?

Medication can often help control chronic conditions like arthritis, benign prostate hyperplasia (BPH) or coronary artery disease (CAD). In some cases, it may take several weeks for the medicine to work. Medicine often works best when it’s used along with other types of treatment, such as physical therapy. You will likely start with medicines that cause the fewest side effects, such as ibuprofen or other over the counter medications. The dose will be increased or the medicines will be changed as needed. Patients should use caution when taking medications, even if they are only over the counter. Always read and follow the instructions on the label. You should always talk to your doctor before altering your medications.

What happens when I’m prescribed Physical Therapy as a treatment?

Physical therapists play an important role in managing chronic pain caused by arthritis or other injuries. Not all chronic pain is the same. Your therapist will evaluate your symptoms and test results and design an individualized treatment plan that fits you best. Physical therapy treatments may include:

  • Education to improve your knowledge and understanding of chronic pain. Your therapist will teach you how to manage your pain and help you work toward performing your normal daily activities again.
  • Strengthening and flexibility exercises to help you move more easily with less discomfort. Your therapist will design a program for you consisting of movements that are gradually increased according to your abilities. Graded exercises help you improve your coordination and movement, reducing the stress and strain on your body, and decreasing your pain.
  • Manual therapy, which consists of specific, gentle, hands-on techniques that may be used to manipulate or mobilize tight joint structures and soft tissues. Manual therapy is used to increase movement (range of motion), improve the quality of the tissues, and reduce pain.
  • Posture awareness and body mechanics instruction to help improve your posture and movement. This training helps you use your body more efficiently while performing activities and even when you are resting. Your therapist will help you adjust your movement at work, or when performing chores or recreational activities, to reduce your pain and increase your ability to function.

What happens when I’m prescribed surgery as a treatment?

Surgery is the most intensive option when it comes to treatment choices. While we make sure that your surgery is as safe and painless as possible, surgery is still a major undertaking. Physicians will suggest surgery if a patient has tried other less invasive options such as medication or physical therapy, or if tests show a patient’s condition is very advanced (such as x-rays showing there is no longer cartilage in the knee). What kind of surgery you get will depend on your condition. For some conditions, like Coronary Artery Disease, there may be a range of surgical options. Once you and your doctor have decided on what procedure is right for you, you’ll receive patient education materials about what will happen during your specific surgery. Some minor surgeries will not require an overnight in the hospital, while other more intensive surgeries may require a few days stay. It’s important to talk to your doctor about expectations for length of stay post-procedure and how long your recovery process will be. Surgery can be hard on a person’s body, so most surgeons will recommend a period of physical therapy after surgery to ensure that your body is healing properly and getting stronger after the procedure. At Mass General Brigham, you may be visited by at-home physical therapists or you may visit a clinic near your home or hospital.

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