Is that bum knee, sore shoulder or turned ankle appointment-worthy? Henry Ford Health orthopedic surgeon Michael Maceroni, D.O., offers advice and insight about when to reach out for help.
Top 10 Reasons To See An Orthopedic Surgeon
Whether that sprain is a real pain or your favorite activities are a distant memory, here are the top 10 reasons to see a hand specialist, knee doctor or other type of orthopedic specialist.
#1: You Had An Injury
Maybe it was a slip and fall. Maybe you zigged when you should have zagged. Whatever the cause, an injury is reason to see an orthopedic surgeon, a.k.a. “bone doctor.” “If you had an injury that resulted in pain or loss of function, you may have a broken bone or a tendon injury,” says Dr. Maceroni. “Don’t assume it’s ‘just this or just that.’ Make an appointment. The longer you put off treatment, the harder it may be to resolve.”
#2: You Have Concerning Symptoms
Certain signs and symptoms are worth paying attention to. Namely, difficulty walking, severe swelling and the inability to move your body like you used to. “Establish care for these symptoms early on,” advises Dr. Maceroni. “It’s better to get ahead of an injury or a condition than to try to catch up to it.”
#3: Pain Wears On You Physically — And Mentally
“If pain is constantly nagging at you, it can affect more than your physical well-being,” cautions Dr. Maceroni. “Chronic pain and the inability to function as you previously have can sap your mental energy and cause undue stress.” An orthopedic surgeon can provide a diagnosis and treatment plan that not only creates a path toward healing, but also eases the anxiety of uncertainty.
#4: Home Remedies Aren’t Cutting It
You’ve iced. You’ve elevated. You’ve taken over-the-counter anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen. Yet pain and swelling remain. “These are clear indicators that it’s time to come in,” says Dr. Maceroni. “Delaying treatment can cause problems down the road. Don’t take a minor problem and turn it into a bigger issue.”
#5: Your Quality Of Life Has Changed — And Not For The Better
“There isn’t a cookie-cutter recommendation for how long you need to wait before seeking treatment,” remarks Dr. Maceroni. “If pain is keeping you awake at night or limiting you from activities, don’t brush it off.”
#6: Pain Persists
If pain persists after physical therapy or in spite of medication, make an appointment. “An orthopedic surgeon has special training in the musculoskeletal system,” says Dr. Maceroni. “They have specialized insight and experience, as well as unique expertise evaluating imaging. They can determine whether something that shows up on an X-ray is the result of an injury or if it’s been there your whole life.”
#7: You’ve Lost Function
Sometimes pain and loss of function happen immediately after an injury. But sometimes they sneak up on you over time. “If you realize that you’re missing out on things that you used to enjoy because it hurts to walk, you can’t get down on your knees to garden or you can no longer take the stairs, it’s time to make an appointment,” says Dr. Maceroni.
#8: PT Wasn’t Enough
Physical therapy (PT) can offer real relief. But it’s not a one-size-fits-all proposition. “PT has more modalities than ever, including strengthening, ultrasound treatment, hydrotherapy and other leading-edge treatments,” says Dr. Maceroni. “However, by itself it may not completely address the underlying issue or provide a lasting solution.” Bottom line: If the problem persists after several sessions of PT, it might be time to see an orthopedic surgeon.
#9: Fear Is Standing In Your Way
Many people focus on the “surgeon” part of “orthopedic surgeon,” and assume that an appointment will lead to an operation. “That’s not necessarily the case,” says Dr. Maceroni. “An orthopedic surgeon will determine the best course of action, which may not be surgery. You may have a different treatment or shorter recovery time than you imagine. Don’t guess. Find out for sure.”
#10: The Waiting Game Can Mean Future Losses
Some people put off treatment because of concerns about missing work or potential downtime. Dr. Maceroni advises that managing an orthopedic problem now can stave off long-term consequences later. “Waiting too long can lead to a poorer outcome, reduced range of motion, arthritis and more. Treating your issue sooner can also mean feeling better sooner. You deserve to live your best possible life.”
Finding The Right Ortho Doctor
The question that comes after “When should I see an orthopedic surgeon?” is often “How do I find the right orthopedic surgeon?” Dr. Maceroni recommends talking with your primary care provider or asking family and friends for recommendations.
“Be sure to choose a board-certified orthopedic surgeon and someone committed to patient-centered care,” he recommends. “It’s important to see someone you trust.”
Dr. Michael Maceroni is an orthopedic surgeon who sees patients at Henry Ford Health Center – Chesterfield, Henry Ford Health Center – Washington Township and Henry Ford Macomb Orthopedics.