7 signs you may need to see an orthopedic surgeon

March 18, 2021 | by Ryan Sullivan, MD, FAAOS
Categories: Healthy Driven Life

Do your hips ache when you climb stairs? Do you have knee pain during your morning run? Are you finding it difficult to lift things?

Most of us will experience muscle, bone or joint pain at some point in our lives. But any time pain persists, it should not be taken lightly. Muscles, bones and joints are essential to movement and when they start to hurt, it can interfere with everyday life.

Orthopedic surgeons specialize in the musculoskeletal system — muscles, bones, joints, tendons and ligaments. They can diagnose and treat problems like strains, sprains, fractures, bone and joint pain, arthritis, overuse injuries and more. Many orthopedic surgeons sub-specialize in a particular area of the body.

Many minor issues and injuries can be treated with ice, rest and over-the-counter anti-inflammatories, but sometimes further intervention is needed. It is important not to wait too long to seek help, as early diagnosis can be essential to preventing an orthopedic problem from getting worse or causing lasting effects.

How do you know when it’s time to see an orthopedic surgeon?

If you are experiencing major pain affecting your daily life, it could mean something is wrong and it’s clear that it’s time to seek help.

But what if the symptoms are more subtle? Here are 7 signs that it may be time to visit an orthopedic surgeon:

  1. Aches and pains in your muscles, bones or joints that persist (lasting more than 3-4 weeks)
  2. Pain or numbness that keeps you up at night
  3. Any form of pain that interferes with normal functioning or movement (e.g., trouble walking, standing, climbing stairs, lifting or reaching)
  4. Joint pain that gets worse when you rest or pain that radiates through your body
  5. Inability to bear weight
  6. A sprain or injury that hasn’t started to improve in 48 hours or leads to excessive swelling or bruising
  7. Signs of infection in an injured area (e.g., redness, swelling, fever, inflammation)

If you aren’t able to perform day-to-day tasks, such as putting on your clothes, getting out of bed, or other activities of daily living without pain, that’s a red flag. Another red flag can be if you need to change the way you perform everyday activities to avoid pain, such as how you sleep or walk.

A visit to an orthopedic surgeon doesn’t necessarily mean you’re headed for surgery. Doctors typically recommend surgery when you have exhausted all other treatment options or when nonsurgical treatment is not expected to provide benefit.

When you visit an orthopedic surgeon for a consultation, the doctor will isolate the cause of the problem and review your treatment options. The doctor may recommend noninvasive treatments, like physical therapy and medication, as well as advice on pain management and ways to prevent future problems.

If nonsurgical options aren’t providing relief, surgery may be necessary to fix the problem and get you on the road to recovery. A few examples of orthopedic surgeries include hip, knee and shoulder replacement; fixation of broken bones with plates, rods and screws; and tendon, cartilage and ligament repair and reconstruction. Often, the surgeon may be able to use minimally invasive techniques, such as smaller incisions and arthroscopy, which can help reduce post-operative pain and recovery time.

You don’t have to suffer through muscle, bone or joint pain. An orthopedic surgeon can help alleviate your symptoms and get you moving again.

The orthopedic team of experts at Edward-Elmhurst Medical Groups-Orthopedics provides exceptional orthopedic, sports medicine and podiatry services for patients of all ages. We use the least invasive treatments necessary to help you get back to the activities you enjoy, as quickly as possible. Learn more.


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