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Healthy Living Blog

When to See an Orthopaedic Specialist


Ortho.jpgWe’ve all experienced it: That ache in your back that you assume will go away eventually, but in the meantime, is really taking away from your golf game. Or maybe that “creak” in your knee you’ve had forever is starting to keep you from sleeping at night. Perhaps your hips are hurting in a way they never did before, making it hard for you to get your daily walk in.

Are your symptoms just a normal part of the aging process? Or did you just push yourself a bit too hard in your last workout? While these are possibilities, simply waiting it out or hoping for the best isn’t really a strategy, especially if your symptoms don’t subside within a week. And there are definitely times when action can be taken to put the spring back into your step.

More than 126 million adults in America suffer from some type of musculoskeletal problem each year, resulting in 18 percent of all health care visits and 83 billion in hospital costs to treat injuries.

Many of these people think there is no fix for them other than medication, so they suffer silently instead of asking themselves one simple question: Do I need to see an orthopaedic specialist?

Let’s begin with the basics. Orthopaedics is a type of medicine that is primarily focused on the musculoskeletal system, which includes bones, joints, ligaments and tendons as well as muscles and nerves. Orthopaedic doctors can handle anything from sprained ankles to hip replacements and treat infections, sports injuries, broken bones, joint problems (including arthritis), congenital conditions and degenerative conditions (like osteoporosis).

So how do you know when to see an orthopaedic specialist? Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Has pain in your muscles, tendons or joints lasted more than a few days?
  • Does pain in your back, hips, knees or shoulders prevent you from completing routine daily activities such as carrying groceries or emptying the dishwasher?
  • Do you have a joint deformity?
  • Are there any signs of infection, such as redness, swelling, inflammation or fever?
  • Do you have joint pain that becomes more intense while at rest?
  • Do you have a limited range of motion, such as being unable to straighten the back?
  • Do you have swelling or bruising around a joint?

One common misconception is that visiting an orthopaedic doctor will land you in the operating room. In reality, surgery is only used as a method of treatment when there are no other corrective options. Doctors typically work to treat patients using other techniques first, such as:

  • Physical therapy is the first line of defense in treating pain caused from conditions such as sciatica, tennis elbow, rotator cuff shoulder injury, plantar fasciitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, back pain, neck pain, tendonitis and arthritis.
  • Medication is also commonly used—and can be necessary— to treat arthritis, especially more severe forms.

Delaying treatment can, in some cases, cause an issue to become more severe. It is possible that pain will resolve without treatment, but taking that chance can be risky—and painful.

To schedule an appointment with one of our orthopaedic specialists, contact us today.

Exercising to Keep Your Joints Healthy