When to Visit an Orthopedic Specialist for Aches and Pains
If you’re experiencing pain in your muscles, joints, or bones, you may be wondering whether or not you should see a doctor. While general aches and pains can often go away on their own, certain symptoms and conditions require the expertise of an orthopedic specialist. Here are some reasons you may need to see an orthopedic doctor.
Most adults experience back pain at some point. There are several potential causes for upper and lower back pain, such as a muscle strain or sprain, sciatica, herniated disc, or sedentary lifestyle. Mild back pain will often go away within a few weeks. However, if yours is severe or lasts more than a few weeks, it’s time to visit a specialist.
Doctors first consider conservative treatments, like physical therapy, medications, and injections, but certain cases may require a spine procedure.
“If they decide on surgery, the surgeon orders preoperative studies that need to be completed before the surgery, as well as sends surgical orders, including equipment necessary for the procedure, to the hospital,” explains Dr. Michael Maier, orthopedic surgeon at Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Group in Sugar Land.
Joint pain often subsides if you rest, ice the area, and keep it elevated. However, if your joint pain is severe and persists for more than five or six days, you should consider seeing an orthopedic specialist, especially if the joint is hot, swollen, stiff, or numb.
Another symptom to watch for is any clicking, grinding, or snapping sound when moving the joint. If you experience any of these symptoms, connect with a joint care specialist for a consultation. They can help determine if the pain stems from arthritis, injury, or general wear and tear.
Dr. Maier advises patients to seek joint care as soon as possible to avoid long-term complications.
“Delaying arthroplasty can lead to the development of chronic pain syndromes. Altered gait from osteoarthritis can lead to early arthritis and degeneration of adjacent joints, such as the hip, low back, or foot and ankle,” he says.
If you have sudden, sharp pain in addition to weakness and loss of movement, it is possible that you have an acute sports injury, such as a broken bone or dislocated joint. If you are experiencing pain or aching that continues when you rest, or swelling that gets worse when you stop an activity, it is possible that you have a chronic sports injury, such as tendonitis or a stress fracture. In either of these cases, schedule a visit with a sports medicine physician. An MRI may be considered to further evaluate the injury.
With muscle, ligament, and tendon injuries, timely care is important.
“Tendon ruptures, such as rotator cuff tears, triceps, biceps, quadriceps, Achilles, and patellar tendon, can oftentimes retract, and sometimes the muscle can atrophy and turn to fat, making reconstruction much more difficult at a later date,” explains Dr. Maier.
And in the case of a broken bone, he says, “Fracture care should not be delayed. This can result in a nonunion or malunion, which is much more difficult to treat.”/p>
If you have been experiencing pain or aching but are unsure if you should see a doctor, be sure to rest, ice, and elevate the area to see if the discomfort subsides. If there has been no change after two days, schedule an appointment with your St. Luke’s Health orthopedic specialist.
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