• Are you having leg, arm, or back pain? Here are the telltale signs that are telling you to visit an orthopedic doctor right away.

    Musculoskeletal conditions affect an astonishing 126.6 million Americans. That’s almost the same number as those with chronic lung or heart problems!

    What’s more, there are over 150 different diagnoses for the musculoskeletal system alone. After all, this system consists of every muscle and bone, down to their smallest nerves.

    An orthopedic doctor is the type of doctor who makes all these diagnoses. They specialize in the health, management, and recovery of the entire musculoskeletal system.

    The question now is, what exactly are the injuries and diseases that affect this system? How do you tell that you need to see an orthopedic specialist?

    We’ll answer all these questions below, so make sure you read on!

    What Is an Orthopedic Doctor?

    Orthopedic doctors attend four years of medical school after gaining their bachelor’s degree. After med school, they then complete up to five years of orthopedic surgery residency. That’s a total of 12 to 13 years of higher education.

    That kind of education makes orthopedic surgeons a type of specialist. Indeed, orthopedic doctors are doctors who specialize in the musculoskeletal system. You may also hear people referring to these doctors as “orthopedic surgeons”.

    These good doctors focus on the health of the bones, ligaments, joints, and tendons. They also specialize in all the tiny nerves attached to these parts. Aside from prevention, they’re also experts in treating musculoskeletal conditions.

    Note that even if they are “surgeons”, they usually use surgery as a last resort on their patients. They usually help their patients recover through medications, physical therapy, or rehabilitation. Most orthopedic treatments also often start with lifestyle changes.

    That said, let’s take a look at the top signs that warrant a visit to an orthopedic doctor.

    You Twisted Your Ankle

    In this case, you likely have a sprained ankle. A sprain happens when you overstretch or tear a ligament. Ligaments, although tough, are still fibrous, sensitive tissues. These are the tissues that attach two bones together within the joints.

    According to some estimates, ankle sprains alone affect up to 25,000 people in the US every day. That makes the ankles the most common area affected by these soft tissue injuries. However, sprains can also occur in the knees, wrists, and even the thumb.

    In many cases, you can treat mild sprains at home with rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE). This will help with the pain, swelling, and bruising.

    If these symptoms don’t disappear or worsen, however, it’s best to see an orthopedic doctor. Especially if you’re having too much difficulty moving around. It’s possible that you’ve sustained a more severe type of sprain.

    You Fell and Landed on Your Hand

    Every year, fall injuries land more than 800,000 people in US hospitals. Falls also accounted for almost a quarter of all non-fatal work injuries both in 2017 and 2018.

    Many non-fatal fall accidents result in hand and wrist sprains. The human instinct, after all, is to land on your hands as you brace yourself for a fall. In doing so, you can break any of the 64 bones in your upper extremities.

    At the very least, you can sprain or strain any of the dozens of soft tissues you have in your arms. Depending on the severity of your fall, you may have completely torn these soft tissues.

    Even if you didn’t hit your head during the accident, you should still see an orthopedic doctor. This way, you can make sure that you don’t have a fractured bone or a severe soft tissue injury.

    You Have Tingling and Pain In Your Wrist

    Speaking of wrist pain, it’s also possible that you have carpal tunnel syndrome. Between four and 10 million Americans suffer from this condition.

    CTS results from excessive pressure placed on your median nerve. Compression of this nerve can cause tingling, numbness, or even weakness in your hands or arms.

    One of the main causes of CTS is a wrist fracture that can cause a narrowing of the carpal tunnel. This narrowing can then irritate your median nerve.

    Rheumatoid arthritis (RA), which affects 1.3 million people in the US, can also cause CTS. The swelling caused by RA can also narrow the carpal tunnel and compress the median nerve.

    You Constantly Feel Tired or Fatigued

    Although insufficient sleep can make you feel tired, so does vitamin D deficiency. Unfortunately, the latter is a risk factor in as many as 50% of people in the US.

    Vitamin D deficiency can cause other symptoms like hair loss and impaired healing. It can also make you more prone to sickness and infections.

    However, chronic deficiency of this vitamin can also result in osteomalacia. It’s a bone disease similar to osteoporosis, wherein the bones have poor calcification. You can learn more here about the various types of bone diseases.

    Keep in mind that most bone diseases can cause bone loss. The more bone you lose, the higher your odds of suffering from fractures. What’s more, the body loses more bone than it can create by the time it hits the age of 20.

    That’s why you should be mindful of your diet even if you’re only in your 20s. Making sure that you don’t have vitamin deficiencies can help keep your bones strong. If you have a risk factor for bone diseases, be sure to regularly see an orthopedic doctor.

    Your Back Hurts

    65 million Americans have experienced back pain at some point in their lives. Of these people, some 16 million suffer from chronic or long-term back pain.

    If your back is feeling sore, chances are, you’ve “pulled” or strained a back muscle. It’s even more likely if the pain started after you’ve lifted something heavy. Suddenly turning around from the waist up could also have pulled a muscle in your back.

    Back pain can also result from staying in the same hunkered or slouched position for a long period of time. Yes, as in when you sit for hours at end, typing away at your computer keyboard.

    Poor sleeping positions and using an old, worn-out mattress can also lead to back pain.

    Either way, strains, like sprains, are also soft tissue injuries. The main difference is that with strains, the affected tissues are muscles or tendons.

    As with sprains, initial strain treatment usually involves the RICE method. If the pain or swelling doesn’t go away in a few days though, it’s time to visit an orthopedic doctor.

    You Suffer From Thigh Pain

    The other common site for strains is the hamstring muscle, which is in the back of your thigh. These injuries often happen when you subject your legs to rapid acceleration. This sudden change in your speed can overwork and stretch the muscle, leading to the strain.

    That’s why hamstring injuries are common in runners and football and soccer players. Still, something as simple as suddenly running can already injure your hamstring muscles.

    An orthopedic doctor is also a leg pain specialist, so it’s best you go see one if you’ve injured your thigh. Pain in this area that doesn’t go away may already indicate a severe tear in your hamstring muscle.

    Your Muscles are “Twitching”

    What you have is likely a muscle spasm, which is an involuntary contraction of a muscle. Skeletal muscle spasms often result from overuse, such as spending a lot of time at the gym. Other common causes are dehydration and letting your muscles get fatigued.

    Muscle spasms can be very painful and severe enough to cause mobility issues. Spasms usually affect the leg muscles, but they can also affect any other muscle in the body.

    Most people do see the “twitching” go away on its own. There are, however, some who experience chronic spasms. If you’re one of the latter, you should see an orthopedic specialist.

    You Have Persistent Shoulder or Arm Pain

    Tendinitis is likely the cause of your pain, especially if it gets worse when you move the affected area. It’s a type of repetitive strain injury (RSI), which often results from repetitive tasks. Sustaining awkward body positions and forceful exertions can also cause this RSI.

    Tendinitis often affects the shoulders, elbows, rotator cuffs, and even the palms. Aside from pain, the skin over the affected area may also be swollen and warm to the touch.

    If you’re suffering from chronic shoulder or arm pain, it’s best to see a bone specialist ASAP. Your orthopedic surgeon can confirm if you have tendinitis or another type of RSI.

    Don’t Let Aches and Pains Limit Your Movement

    If you suffer from constant pain and limited mobility, you’re at a higher risk of depression. Always being in pain can do that, as well as restricting your ability to workout and maintain your weight. That’s why it’s important that you see an orthopedic doctor as soon as you experience any of these signs.

    The sooner you see a bone, arm, leg, or back specialist, the sooner you can start your recovery.

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