Knowing When to Go to the Doctor

Some people avoid going to the doctor unless it is absolutely necessary. Others run to the doctor at the first sign of sickness or pain. Depending on the injury, it can be difficult to know when it’s really time to see a medical professional. I’ve compiled a list of situations in which I consider it necessary to go to the doctor.

 

Please note: This is in no way a comprehensive list. These are just a few common situations I see as an orthopaedic specialist.

 

Fractures and Broken Bones. In the moment, broken bones should seem like an emergency, but you’d be surprised how many patients delay seeing a doctor in hopes their injury will simply heal on its own.

 

  • Hip Fractures. Fractures in the pelvis are some of the most debilitating. Only if a patient is extremely ill or likely to die during surgery would a hip fracture not be operated on.
  • Ankle Fractures. Sometimes ankle fractures can heal on their own with a little assistance, and other times surgery is required to get you back on your feet. But no matter what, they require a trip to the doctor to assess the situation.
  • Wrist Fractures. Similar to ankle fractures, the need for wrist surgery depends on the type of fracture and its severity. Sometimes a wrist can be set in place and put in a cast without the need for invasive surgery. If the fracture is more serious, surgical correction might be necessary. As with most injuries, only a doctor can determine the best treatment plan for you.

 

Tears and Dislocations. There are many other orthopaedic emergencies that don’t necessarily include fractures, such as tears and dislocations.

 

  • Meniscus Tears. Your meniscus is the cartilage between your leg bones at your knee joint. When you’re young, the meniscus is flexible, but as you age it gets stiffer and more brittle. Meniscus tears often occur in patients over the age of fifty but can also show up as sports injuries at any age. A meniscus tear will never heal properly on its own and always requires corrective surgery.
  • ACL Tears. Your ACL is the ligament that connects the femur to the tibia and is an important ligament for knee stabilization. ACL tears are painful and can cause your knee to give out during exercise or even simple daily activities. Unless you are extremely inactive and don’t experience these issues, I recommend surgery for ACL tears.
  • Shoulder Dislocations. If a patient comes to me with a first-time shoulder dislocation, in many cases I take the conservative care route. Young, high-performance athletes are often an exception to this rule due to their high risk of recurrent dislocations. I believe strengthening the shoulder should be the first line of defense against further injuries when possible. If that doesn’t work, we’ll revisit the idea of surgery.

When Conservative Care Isn’t Working. If you’ve been trying conservative care for a while and your pain or injury is still flaring up and impacting your daily activities, go to the doctor. There’s no need to suffer. An orthopaedic specialist can help you with many persistent problems that are very common, such as severe joint pain and carpal tunnel syndrome.

 

As we learn more and more about how the body works, I’m hoping there will be more solutions for persistent pain that allow patients to avoid the operating table, but for now, surgery is a safe, effective option for many injuries that would otherwise be devastating.