Don’t Ignore Pain
There are only four official vital signs for the human body, but doctors have been lobbying for years to classify pain as a fifth. This is because even an otherwise healthy person is unwell if they are living with pain. Pain is a symptom of disease or injury and should never be ignored.
Issues that cause pain rarely get better without diagnosis and treatment. Some pains are a distinct warning sign of a serious condition. Many is the unfortunate cancer patient, for example, who wishes they had investigated a new pain when they first felt it, perhaps weeks or months earlier than it was diagnosed.
The Meaning Behind Pain
Your Musculoskeletal System
The musculoskeletal system is so complex that it requires a medical specialist to treat it. These specialists are called orthopedic doctors, and many of them specialize even further into specific musculoskeletal regions, such as the knee or the back. The most sophisticated doctors in this class are orthopedic surgeons. They are not only able to diagnose and treat orthopedic problems, but they are also able to perform corrective surgery if and when that becomes the appropriate medical option.
What Causes Musculoskeletal Pain?
Wear vs Injury
Other types of pain may have an origin that’s not as obvious as an injury. For example, joint pain and stiffness are often caused by degenerative diseases, such as osteoarthritis. These pains start out as infrequent discomfort, but chronic conditions don’t heal on their own.
Sports injuries are often underdiagnosed by amateur athletes, which is to say that they are not looked at by a professional. What appeared to be a simple sprained ankle or knee might actually include micro-tears of ligaments or cartilage.
When Does the Orthopedic Surgeon Come In?
Most people are sensible about immediately dealing with severe pain or injury. A surprising number, however, take lesser pains in stride and assume it’s just something that will go away or that they will learn to live with. Many aches and pains do go away by themselves, but when there’s an unseen medical issue, any relief is only temporary.
Worse, underestimating an injury as if nothing were seriously wrong can exacerbate the damage, making it harder to treat. When pain or lack of full movement hasn’t abated in a reasonable time frame – days, not weeks – it’s time to see an orthopedist. While there are many orthopedic specialists, an orthopedic surgeon will have the most insight into both the problem and available solutions.
It is possible for people to treat some obvious problems on their own with simple cures like rest and specialized exercise. However, orthopedists will make a more thorough inquiry into the source of the problem and deliver a full medical diagnosis.
Taking a Closer Look
Even though the orthopedic surgeon is the most authoritative source of diagnosis and treatment for orthopedic problems, not every pain or injury calls for a surgical solution. For example, many orthopedic injuries can be healed with time and physical therapy. The doctor will determine if this first, non-invasive course is right for you and your problem.
Most physical therapy sessions take place in a specialized setting with guidance from a clinician called a physical or occupational therapist. These facilities have specialized equipment to work the problem area and measure key metrics, such as range of motion and recovery progress. Some physical therapy routines are so basic that the patient can do them at home, with no more equipment than a resistance band – essentially an oversized rubber band.
Types of Treatments
In the event that more involved medical treatment is necessary to solve the problem, orthopedic surgeons have many tools at their disposal. In addition to their own specialized experience, these doctors use a variety of cutting-edge technologies and techniques that have revolutionized orthopedic medicine.
Many injuries and diseases that once required extensive, full-open surgeries can now be performed through less invasive means. These “lighter” techniques are performed with the assistance of medical technologies such as arthroscopy. In this technique, a tiny camera, brought inside the body through small incisions, guides the surgical inspection and procedure.
Because the incisions are small, they cut into less tissue, and because the cameras see the damage up close, highly precision work is made easier. Recovery time for the patient is also faster because there has been less trauma to the surrounding area.
Common Surgical Procedures
Orthopedic surgeons have a broad variety of remedies at their disposal for treating orthopedic issues. Some of the more common procedures include:
Through arthroscopic visualization, the surgeon can repair torn or damaged tissues or bone using one of several techniques. The surgeon can mend torn tissues, shave painful bone spurs, and anchor weak ligaments so that they have greater structural integrity. An arthroscopic repair can be used in practically any joint in the body and is a preferred method over open surgery in most cases because it causes the least trauma.
In some cases, when tissue has been damaged, the surgeon’s task is to rebuild, or “reconstruct” the original integrity of the ligament or cartilage using one or more stitching and bracing techniques. One of the most common sports medicine procedures is ACL reconstruction. In this operation, the surgeon actually performs a grafting procedure. Healthy tissue from elsewhere in the patient’s body (or in some cases, from someone else’s body) is moved into the injured area and used to repair the ACL tear, bracing it for structural integrity.
Fusion is a surgical procedure that is used to correct problems with disconnected or damaged bones by “fusing” them together and creating a single healthy bone, much as a welder might join together two pieces of metal. Fusion procedures try to emulate the body’s own power to heal itself, the way a broken bone will eventually mend together.
Fusion surgery is quite common for spinal problems, especially in the vertebrae. Fusion procedures are also used in ankles, wrists, and other areas where small bones can cause outsized problems.
How Can I Get Started?
There’s no reason to have to live with orthopedic pain when there are many effective medical treatments available. An orthopedic specialist can diagnose the problem and provide a variety of answers. If your condition can be addressed through therapy and non-invasive strategies, that will usually mark the starting point of getting back to pain-free normality. If you suffer from pain in your legs, arms, hands, back, or shoulders, you owe it to yourself to investigate the source and eliminate the problem. Reach out today for a consultation at Plymouth Bay Orthopedic Associates in Plymouth, MA.