When you have a condition or injury that affects your bones, ligaments, tendons, or muscles, then your primary care doctor may not have the expertise to provide comprehensive treatment. This is where orthopedists, or orthopedic doctors, come in. They specialized in this type of medicine, so there are certain situations where their expertise is needed. But, when and why should you see an orthopedic doctor?
What Do Orthopedic Doctors Do?
As the American Academy of Orthopedic Medicine (AAOM) explains, orthopedic doctors are trained in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of conditions affecting the bones, joints, muscles, ligaments, and tendons. Many orthopedic doctors can provide general care, but some have received further training in specific areas of the body. Some areas of specialty include:
- Hips and knees
- Shoulder and elbow
- Foot and ankle
Orthopedic surgeons can treat a number of conditions, both common and rare. Many orthopedic practices have several doctors on staff with experience in different areas. An orthopedist can treat patients of all ages. Some of the common conditions that patients are referred to orthopedic doctors for include:
- Orthopedic trauma
- Sports injuries
- Back pain
- Hand injuries
- Carpal tunnel
- Foot and ankle injuries
- Achilles tendon injury
- Hip dysplasia
- Club foot
- Bone tumors
Signs you Need to See an Orthopedic Doctor
Because orthopedic doctors can treat a range of conditions, there are many reasons you might need to see one. If you see your primary care doctor and they suspect you may have an orthopedic condition or injury, they should refer you to a specialist. There are seven signs that you should see an orthopedic doctor.
- You have chronic pain: If you experience continuous pain that lasts weeks or months, that’s a sign you should see a doctor. The term chronic is usually used when pain has been present for more than 12 weeks, but that doesn’t mean you need to wait that long to seek treatment.
- Your range of motion is limited: If pain and stiffness is keeping you from moving freely, then orthopedic doctors can help with that. Limited motion is often a symptom of an injury, arthritis and other joint diseases. You should seek treatment when you notice that you are losing range of motion so that the condition does not get worse and require more aggressive treatment.
- A soft tissue injury has not improved in 48 hours: Many people experience soft tissue injuries like sprains, strains, and twists. Often these conditions can be treated with rest and stabilization and will heal over time without much medical intervention. However, if there is swelling or pain that doesn’t improve after 48 hours, you should seek medical attention. If there is an injury to the muscles, ligaments, tendons, or bones, orthopedists can diagnose and treat the problem. They can also intervene to prevent further and more severe injuries.
- You have difficulty walking or standing: Orthopedic issues may cause difficulty walking or standing. If you have instability or feel shaky when walking, sitting down, standing up, or remaining standing, an orthopedist can help diagnose the problem and come up with a treatment plan.
- You have difficulty performing everyday tasks: If you are having problems with day to day activities due to pain or limited range of motion, then you should probably see an orthopedist. These activities may include getting out of bed in the morning, climbing stairs, getting up and down from a seated position, or walking. Many older people experience these issues, but orthopedic doctors can help. They can evaluate you and may recommend physical therapy, or surgery to help improve your quality of life and restore your ability to perform necessary activities on a daily basis.
- You have a fracture: Some broken bones can be mended by wearing a cast or splint to immobilize the area, but other fractures are more complex, such as stress fractures or compression fractures. The location of the fracture may also require more in-depth treatment to get the bone to heal. Fractures in the hips, vertebrae, wrists, and kneecaps are not as easy to treat as a simple fracture in the arm. With those types of fractures, a physician may refer you to an orthopedist. An orthopedic doctor can treat these fractures with surgery or other methods.
- You experience orthopedic trauma: If you are in an accident, have a fall or sustain a sports injury, you may demonstrate signs or symptoms consistent with a traumatic injury. You should be examined and monitored by an orthopedic specialist promptly to ensure that there is no irreversible damage to your bones, joints or muscles.
Make an Appointment
The physicians at South Shore Orthopedics are board-certified and have training in specialty areas like sports medicine, shoulder surgery, hand surgery, and reconstructive surgery. We provide care for a wide range of conditions, including fracture care, joint replacement, orthopedic trauma, and many others. If you have concerns about your orthopedic health, call us at (781) 337-5555, or request an appointment online.