Should You See an Orthopedic Surgeon?
If you're suffering from any sort of dysfunction or deformity of your musculoskeletal system, an orthopedic surgeon is who you want to see. Orthopedic surgery is an extremely wide-ranging field that covers multiple parts of the body. Orthopedic surgeons, also known as orthopedists, are trained to diagnose and treat problems in the spine, extremities, joints, muscles and ligaments, as well as other areas. They deal with fractures, tears, sprains, ruptures, and dislocations on a daily basis.
Because of the broad spectrum of conditions orthopedic surgeons treat, many choose to specialize. Some concentrate on hand surgery, some on foot and ankle surgery, and others on the spine, knee, or hip. Some treat sports injuries specifically, while others treat only children.
How do you know if it's time to visit an orthopedic surgeon, and what can this doctor do for you? Consider making an appointment if you have pain that won't let up, diminished function, or any disfiguration that's interfering with your daily life. Arthritis is a common reason people see orthopedic surgeons, and treatments vary depending on the part of the body affected, the intensity of the discomfort, and how advanced the disease is. Generally, an orthopedic surgeon may try the following therapies before resorting to surgery:
- Medication. If the condition isn't debilitating, an orthopedist may simply recommend that you try an over-the-counter painkiller/anti-inflammatory medication. If that doesn't help, he or she may prescribe something.
- Cortisone. Injections of cortisone directly into the afflicted joint have been known to help some arthritis patients. Generally this is a therapy that has a limited lifespan, as too-frequent injections can further damage the joint.
- Exercise and physical therapy. Physical activity can help decrease pain and stiffness. Patients may be taught to perform daily functions in a new way to ease joint strain. Splints or canes may help as well.
If all else fails, surgery may be necessary. Orthopedic surgeons employ a variety of techniques depending on the problem. They may replace joints or realign existing joints or bones. They also may fuse together the ends of joint bones to prevent excess motion. After surgery, patients will usually be prescribed a rehabilitation program to help them recover and lessen the potential need for future surgery.
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, http://orthoinfo.aaos.org;
The Center for Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine, www.arthroscopy.com.
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