When and Why Should You See an Orthopedic Doctor?

Surgeons and PA at Alexander Orthopaedics

For most people, an orthopedic doctor conjures a picture of medical scalpels and surgery. But if you suffer from chronic pain in your joints or muscles, an orthopedist holds the key to your healing.

An orthopedic is very critical to our health and wellness. One in every two adults end up needing their services at one time or another. Especially those who suffer from musculoskeletal conditions, which, according to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, includes more than 120 million Americans.

Musculoskeletal conditions may interfere with your quality of life by causing severe pain, limiting your movements, and interfering with your work. When left untreated, the condition might lead to permanent disability. Repeated visits to different doctors and the cost of medication further increase this burden.

Seeing an orthopedist early enough will save you money and may keep you from a lot of pain - short and long term. Here are more benefits of seeing an orthopedic doctor and how to plan your visit.

What Is an Orthopedic Doctor?

Also known as orthopedists, orthopedic doctors treat conditions affecting the bones, joints, and muscles. Most orthopedic doctors are general specialists, but we have a few other specializations, such as:

  • Sports medicine orthopedics
  • Pediatric orthopedics
  • Spine specialists
  • Upper limb (hand) surgery
  • Lower limb (foot) surgery
  • Orthopedic oncology (musculoskeletal cancer specialists)
  • Joint specialists

Many doctors start with general practice before specializing.

What Do They Do?

An orthopedist's workday involves diagnosing, preventing, and treating ailments affecting the bones, muscles, tendons, joints, and ligaments.

Tendons vs. Ligaments

Tendons and ligaments are the reasons you're able to move your limbs without feeling friction or losing stability. Tendons are thin fibers of connective tissue attaching muscles to the bones, while ligaments connect bone to bone.

Why See an Orthopedic Doctor?

Patients experiencing chronic joint pains after fracturing their bones in an accident need to see an orthopedist. Some of the big hospitals have in-house specialists. However, it’s not always easy to find all the expertise needed under one roof, especially given how many specializations exist.
Orthopedic surgeons handle numerous referral cases involving some of the following issues:

  • Leg fractures
  • Bone tumors
  • Arthritis
  • Sports injuries
  • Hip displacement
  • Hand injuries
  • Lower back pain
  • Osteoporosis
  • Tendon injuries
  • Muscle injuries
  • Spinal issues
  • Shoulder injuries

Signs You Need to See an Orthopedist

It's hard to tell the right time to see a specialist when part of your routine involves lifting, pulling, pushing, and twisting heavy objects. Part of the pain might feel normal, but you don't have to wait until you have trouble doing your work to look for a doctor. A few signs that you might need to see an orthopedic doctor include:

Chronic Pain

When you experience persistent pain in your bones or joints, making it harder to do routine things like walking, standing, or going up the stairs. If your pain lasts for more than three months, it’s a good idea to get help from an orthopedist.

Worsening Injuries

If you're healing from a soft-tissue injury, but your pain seems to be getting worse, you may want to see an orthopedic surgeon. A few fractures may go unnoticed after treatment from an accident. They're the reason for part of the pain and swelling. Even if you're already getting treated elsewhere, it pays to have a second opinion from a bone specialist.


You've lost your strength and flexibility. You're now struggling with routine tasks like gardening because of pain when you move your arms repeatedly. Repetitive motion disorder (RMD) is a serious condition that may disrupt your career if your work involves repetitive movements like carpentry, for instance.

Stiff and Sore Limbs

You're always feeling stiff and sore. It may be because you've been standing or sitting in an awkward position for hours. But if your soreness doesn't feel normal, especially if it keeps on happening, you need to see an orthopedist.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

When you have a tingling or numbing sensation in your hands, it might be caused by a damaged nerve in your carpal tunnel. Working with tools that require repetitive wrist movements may damage the carpal tunnel, which contains nerves that deliver sensations between your hand and the brain.


You can't bear your weight when transitioning from one position like standing up, sitting, or walking. Instability can be a sign that your joints or muscles are damaged.


If your bones seem out of place, or even if it's just your fingers that look a bit twisted, you might need to see an orthopedist.

Benefits of an Orthopedist Over Your General Physician (GP)

Most people will turn to a primary care physician or GP when they experience unbearable pain in their joints or muscles. GPs are well trained to handle general diagnosis and treatment. However, your GP may recommend an orthopedist on issues requiring specialized care, like muscle or tissue injuries.

It's good to have a GP on the quick dial and even better when you have an orthopedist, because you can save money from repeat treatments and diagnoses. Here are a few other benefits of being a specialist over your primary care physician:

Fast Treatment Solutions

By focusing on one area of medicine, a specialist has more knowledge and experience with musculoskeletal issues. An experienced orthopedist will take a shorter time to diagnose and treat your injuries.

Helps Avoid Misdiagnosis

According to the American Osteopathic Association, misdiagnosis can lead to arthritis, chronic pain, and permanent disability. Most people treated for injuries often stop going for treatment once they start recovering. However, hairline fractures and torn muscles can go unnoticed, leading to more severe conditions.

Better Long-Term Pain Management

Chronic pain is one of the biggest reasons for orthopedic visits. An orthopedic specialist will give you more options to manage or eliminate your pain.

Prevents Unnecessary Procedures

An orthopedist knows when to make the right call for surgery. As well-versed specialists in musculoskeletal conditions, they will explore all possible treatment options and only recommend surgery when it's necessary.

Quicker Recoveries

It's not uncommon for sportspeople who experience career-ending injuries to heal and get back to the field in a few weeks. Such experiences are only possible because of advanced medicine and the unique skills of an orthopedic surgeon.

What Happens if You Don't See an Orthopedic Physician for Chronic Pain?

It takes longer to recover from injuries, and you risk developing more serious conditions, like arthritis. An orthopedist has a broader picture of your bone and muscle health and knows the effective treatments for the related ailments and injuries.

When to See an Orthopedist for Shoulder Injuries

There are many reasons you would want to get rid of that shoulder pain, like when you want to get back into the swing of your tennis game or when the pain interferes with playing with your kids or staying focused at work. Pain that keeps you from normal function should be reason enough to visit a specialist. If you're wondering when to see an orthopedic doctor for shoulder pain, these few tips might help:

  • Your shoulder pain has persisted for more than three weeks, and over-the-counter medications are not helping.
  • You hear a click or popping sound when you try to lift or throw something over your shoulders.
  • You feel pain when lifting your arms over your head.
  • When you're recovering from a shoulder injury, the pain seems to be coming back.
  • When you dislocate your shoulder, or it looks deformed.

Do Orthopedists Treat Pain From Leg Injuries?

Leg pain is among the most common reasons for orthopedic visits. Orthopedists treat various leg-related conditions and injuries such as:

  • Joint pain and mobility issues
  • Leg fractures
  • Muscle injuries
  • Ligament injuries
  • Sport-related leg injuries
  • Leg cramps
  • Vein and nerve-related leg conditions

Can I See an Orthopedic Doctor for My Arthritis?

An orthopedist will be the best person to determine whether you need surgery or therapy to relieve your pain. When deciding on whether to do several procedures, like an osteotomy or joint replacement, the doctor will assess conditions like your age and disease severity.

Will I Have to Go for Surgery?

Orthopedic procedures are not always surgical. The doctor will prescribe the right treatment after diagnosis. At times you might only need pain-relieving injections as you undergo healing, or you might need physical therapy or even braces for injuries.

Getting Treatment - Planning to Visit the Orthopedist

These tips will help you get the most out of your visit if you need to see an orthopedic doctor:

  • Ensure you disclose all information about your illness, even when you feel it might not be relevant.
  • First-time visits involve the usual paperwork. Come prepared with details like your medical history and health insurance.
  • You might be required to take some tests, and it's easier when you're mentally ready.
  • Prepare to ask questions. You might need more information on the available treatment options and treatment duration.
  • Take notes if possible so that you don't forget any crucial information.

Where Can I Find an Orthopedic Doctor Near Me?

Your GP may guide you in the right direction when you need to see an orthopedic specialist for further treatment.

Alexander Orthopaedic Associates addresses orthopedic health problems with cutting-edge technologies and time-tested traditional therapies. Our services include treatment for shoulder injuries, arthritis, bone fractures after an accident, and more. Contact us for more information or book an appointment from the online form.