5 Signs That Indicate You Should Be Seen by an Orthopedic Surgeon ASAP

woman speaking with a doctor in an office

When to Make the Transition from an Orthopedic Doctor to Orthopedic Surgery Specialists

Orthopedics is a broad branch of medicine that treats conditions relating to the musculoskeletal system. That includes anything from chronic neck pain due to aging or a sprained ankle incurred during a football game. Most orthopedic doctors help patients with pain management for chronic conditions that cause them discomfort and/or limit their mobility.

Ideally, they can treat their patients using non-surgical means; however, some conditions require more aggressive forms of treatment from an orthopedic surgeon. Orthopedic surgery specialists treat musculoskeletal conditions that require surgical intervention, such as torn ligaments and tendons, joints that must be fully or partially replaced, and bone fractures related to osteoporosis.

Patients are usually referred to orthopedic surgeons when their orthopedic doctors have exhausted all other treatment options. Orthopedic surgeons are considered the next step in escalation for patients who are displaying minimal to no improvement.

However, it can be difficult for patients to surmise which conditions require an orthopedic doctor versus an orthopedic surgery specialist. The following five signs indicate that you may be a candidate to see an orthopedic surgeon.

#1 – Severe Chronic Joint Pain

Ongoing joint pain drastically decreases quality of life and inhibits range of motion and joint function. In these cases, it’s likely that an orthopedic surgeon will need to be involved to perform one of the following types of surgery:

The type of surgery performed is entirely dependent on the condition of the joint and which procedure is most likely to permanently eliminate the symptoms of pain and discomfort. Most orthopedic surgeons try to keep surgery as minimally invasive as possible.

#2 – Decreased Range of Motion

Limited or decreased range of motion occurs when the joint in question cannot move at full capacity. This can be caused by joint dislocation, fracture, infection, cartilage or meniscus tears, and foreign bodies that may be stuck in the joint, like bone fragments from a fracture.

After an orthopedic doctor examines the area, it’s likely that the patient will be referred to an orthopedic surgery specialist. Conditions that limit range of motion sometimes require some form of surgical intervention.

#3 – Traumatic Injuries

Traumatic injuries often occur in sports or through unexpected life incidents, such as car wrecks or falls. In these cases, it’s not uncommon for an injury to result in a broken or shattered bone that requires an orthopedic surgeon to operate.

Shattered bones require surgical repair so that they may properly heal. Traumatic injuries are one of the few cases where an examination by an orthopedic doctor is bypassed so that surgery may be performed in a timely fashion.

#4 – Joint Deformity

Joint deformity typically occurs as a result of injury, fracture, or a form of arthritis. In addition to the noticeable change in appearance, joint deformity is also commonly associated with chronic pain and discomfort.

In some cases, patients enlist the services of an occupational therapist to learn how to retain range of motion and flexibility in their joints. In more severe cases, joint replacement surgery performed by an orthopedic surgeon is necessary to regain full motion within the joint.

#5 – Joint Instability

Patients who are suffering with joint instability often feel as if their joints can’t support them while navigating stairs, lifting objects, or other common activities. Further, they may also experience the feeling of their joint giving out or dislocating. In these cases, it’s best for patients to reach out to an orthopedic doctor near them to get the area examined and diagnosed.

Noninvasive treatment plans improve stability and strength in the joint; however, if ligaments or tendons must be repaired, then that will require the attention of an orthopedic surgery specialist.

Finding an Orthopedic Doctor Near You for an Examination

Most musculoskeletal issues must first be diagnosed by an orthopedic doctor to determine the root cause of your pain and discomfort. They may order an X-ray, MRI, or CT scan to get imaging of the bones, tendons, and ligaments in the affected area. After a diagnosis, your orthopedic doctor will likely put you on a noninvasive treatment plan to remedy the issue.

However, with some conditions, it’s obvious that surgical intervention is needed immediately. If that’s the case, your orthopedic doctor will refer you to orthopedic surgery specialists for treatment. Patients who suspect that they have an orthopedic issue should reach out to an orthopedic doctor near them to arrange an examination.