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When Should I See an Orthopedic Doctor?


If you’re working with heavy objects or typing for hours on end, your muscles might be telling you something. Listen up! If the warning signs keep getting worse and can affect how well they (and you) work, then it’s time for an appointment with a doctor who specializes in orthopedics.

You may be wondering whether going straight for an orthopedic specialist is a better choice than visiting your primary care doctor. In this article, we’ll show you the signs you should be on the lookout for so you know when it’s time to visit an orthopedist. 

What Is An Orthopedic Doctor?

Orthopedic doctors, also known as musculoskeletal orthopedists, specialize in diagnosing and treating medical conditions that affect bones, muscles, ligaments, and tendons. Orthopedic medicine is one of the most active disciplines within the world of medicine. Orthopedic surgeons are often called upon to diagnose and treat bone fractures and perform surgeries. 

Since orthopedics deals with several bodily systems, a specialist may be the first line of defense for joint or musculoskeletal problems. 

Here are a few things an orthopedic doctor can do:

  • Assist with sports injuries or those that have been suffered from falls or car accidents
  • Prescribe medications to assist with the healing process
  • Prescribe physical therapy
  • Help alleviate chronic pain associated with arthritis, bursitis, tendonitis, and autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis through physical therapy, medication, surgery, or a combination of the three
  • Diagnose and treat several other musculoskeletal conditions. 

Signs You Should See an Orthopedic Doctor

Sign #1: You’re Experiencing Shoulder Pain

If your pain radiates to other parts of your body or is different from any pain you’ve experienced before, it is likely time to meet with an orthopedic doctor. Pain in the shoulders that gets worse at night and is relieved by movement could be caused by tendonitis. This condition occurs due to overuse or injury, where it displays similar symptoms as those seen with elbow problems such as tenderness near joints along with swelling of a particular muscle group’s tissues. 

Sign #2: You Have Swollen Joints

If you have swollen joints, it could be due to an infection that needs immediate treatment. If you have pain in your joints, it could be bursitis. This condition often occurs when someone incurs an overuse injury or weight gain puts excess stress on the surrounding tissues. 

The swollen joint could also be due to arthritis. Women are more likely than men to develop arthritis, although the risk increases with age. Rheumatoid disorders can be an early symptom of this condition and may affect people as young as 20, if they have certain risk factors such as obesity or a history of injury.

Sign #3: You Are Experiencing Stiff Fingers

If you feel like your fingers are getting stiff and painful, it could be due to carpal tunnel syndrome. The nerve that runs from our arms into the thumb passes through a small “tunnel” and travels down each finger. This condition can arise from many different causes, including previous wrist fractures or repetitive motions at work, such as typing or other fine motor hand movements.

Sign #4: Persistent Knee and Hip Pain

Joints in the knees and hips naturally begin to deteriorate over time, but sometimes they become too painful for daily use. If you find yourself struggling when walking or climbing stairs, then it might be an indication that these joints need attention sooner than later —  if not treated correctly after the damage has already been done, joint replacement surgery may be necessary to remove damaged tissue and relieve chronic pain.

Making the Orthopedic Doctor Appointment

Most orthopedic problems are best treated before they worsen or become chronic or even permanent. Seeing an orthopedic doctor as soon as you notice symptoms helps prevent long-term complications like limited range of motion, inflammation, chronic pain, and severe stiffness that make it harder to carry out your daily activities. Early treatment can also help speed up your rehab process.

If you have a minor injury now but notice it worsens over several days or weeks, see your orthopedic doctor right away. Late diagnosis is a missed opportunity for early treatment with better results.

One final reason to make an appointment with an orthopaedist is if you are considering surgery for a repetitive stress injury (RSI). Their expertise will help you determine whether it’s the best course of action for you—and which procedure would be most effective. They’ll also discuss how long rehabilitation will take and what activities can put undue strain on your new joint once it’s healed.

What to Expect At Your Orthopedic Appointment

Here is what you can expect from your appointment with the orthopedic specialist:

  • Paperwork – As with any first-time doctor’s appointment, you’ll need to fill out some paperwork regarding your symptoms and medical history. 
  • Exam – Your orthopedic specialist will begin by getting to know you as a patient and examining your medical history. Next they may perform tests for things like limb strength or range-of motion that could help them determine what is causing discomfort.
  • Any Additional Tests – If your orthopedic specialist cannot diagnose the problem through their initial examination, they may order additional tests such as x-rays and MRIs to better pinpoint the cause of the issue.
  • Treatment Plans – Once your orthopedic specialist has diagnosed the problem, treatment can begin. Many injuries that are treated by an orthopedic surgeon will require only non-invasive treatments such as oral medication or injectable solutions in order for a full recovery to be made with little pain involved – if any at all! Your doctor may also recommend exercises and physical therapy sessions, so you get back up on your feet again.

Let Our Team at Thunder Basin Orthopedic Help

At Thunder Basin Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine, our doctors are well-experienced and specialize in treating various orthopedic injuries, including sports injuries. Our trained staff and experienced surgeons offer the best possible treatment and utmost care to each individual.

You may need a joint replacement for a number of reasons such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, post-traumatic arthritis, or even a sports injury. These conditions lead to considerable pain, as well as a limited range of motion. At Thunder Basin Orthopaedics, we will work with you to evaluate whether you are a good candidate for a joint replacement by looking at your medical history as well as performing a physical exam and taking x-rays.

If you are ready to take the first steps towards pain-free joints, please request an appointment with us today.