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When To See an Orthopedic Doctor

  • May 22 2023

A male doctor examines a young girl’s arm while two nurses look on behind her. An orthopedic doctor is a specialist who offers services and treatments a primary care provider cannot. There are many types of orthopedic doctors, but they all specialize in the musculoskeletal system.

Knowing what they do and when to see an orthopedic doctor is important if you or your child has a condition related to joints, muscles, and bones. When pain, immobility, and other issues keep you from being active, it’s time to see a specialist.

What Do Orthopedic Doctors Do?

Orthopedic doctors, often called orthopedic surgeons, prevent, diagnose, treat, rehabilitate, and manage conditions and injuries that involve the musculoskeletal system: joints, bones, muscles, ligaments, and tendons. Examples of what orthopedists treat include:

The specialty of orthopedics originated with the care of children born with limb or spine conditions. Today, orthopedists treat patients of all ages.

When Is It Time To See an Orthopedic Doctor?

A young couple runs outside on a trail. In general, you should see an orthopedic specialist if you have a condition or injury that affects the musculoskeletal system. You can see your primary physician first, and they will most likely recommend seeing an orthopedist. If you’re wondering if your situation is severe enough to warrant seeing a specialist, here are some signs that you should:

  • You suffered an acute bone or joint injury
  • You have an acute soft-tissue injury that doesn’t get better or gets worse
  • You have chronic, ongoing pain in a joint or bone
  • Joint pain or swelling limits your mobility
  • You feel unstable when trying to walk
  • Pain keeps you from being as active as you would like

Do I Need a Referral To See an Orthopedic Doctor?

Whether you need a referral depends on your insurance plan. Some plans require members to see their primary care providers first to get a referral to see a specialist. If you are not sure if you need a referral, contact your insurer.

Choosing the Best Orthopedic Doctor

 An older male doctor examines a younger female patient’s shoulder. Recognizing it’s time to see an orthopedist is the first step. The next is finding the right doctor for you. Here are some tips to help you make this important decision:

Get Referrals

Even if you don’t need a referral from your doctor, if you trust your primary care physician, they might be able to recommend the best orthopedist for your needs. Talk to friends and family, too. Find out if they have benefitted from a particular specialist.

Do Your Homework

Getting the right care is essential for the best outcomes, so do your own homework, as well. Read up on orthopedists and look for board-certified specialists with training and experience. You might want to find an orthopedist with a subspecialty, like knee replacement, so look for doctors who have completed the appropriate fellowships.

Look for an Orthopedic Team

Some orthopedists work in isolation, but the best ones work in teams that collaborate and learn from each other. You’ll get a wider variety of care and treatment from a team that includes physicians with various subspecialties as well as rehabilitation specialists and physical and occupational therapists.

Check Your Insurance

Healthcare costs shouldn’t deter you from getting the treatment you need. To avoid any unpleasant surprises, contact your insurer to find out if you need a referral, if you need to stay in network, and what kinds of orthopedic treatments are covered.

Consider Personal Fit

Even with all the credentials in the world, you might just not fit with a certain physician. Start with an initial consultation and evaluation to get some answers and to decide if an orthopedist is a good fit for you. If it doesn’t feel right, get a second opinion.

At South Island Orthopedics, you’ll find compassionate, experienced orthopedic surgeons, many with subspecialties, who can offer the most advanced and expert care. When you’re ready to get relief and work with the best orthopedists in the area, request an appointment online with one of our specialists. 

Posted in: General & Pediatric Orthopaedic Care