When To See an Orthopedic Surgeon

orthopedic surgeon Mobile, AL

When a person experiences chronic joint, muscle or bone pain, it may be time for that person to see an orthopedic surgeon. Though many types of medical professionals specialize in the care and relief of musculoskeletal conditions, orthopedic surgeons deal specifically with the musculoskeletal system, which includes the nerves, joints, tendons, bones, ligaments and muscles. If you currently live with chronic joint or muscle pain, it may be time to visit a local orthopedic surgeon.

Signs it is time to see an orthopedic surgeon

Not everyone who experiences joint pain will need to see an orthopedic specialist. That said, there are certain signs for which individuals should be on the lookout. Some symptoms that may indicate it is time to see an orthopedic specialist include the following:

  • Stiffness, pain or discomfort when performing everyday tasks
  • Gradual decrease in range of motion
  • Instability when walking or standing
  • Chronic pain that lasts longer than 12 weeks

A person should also be wary if a soft-tissue injury does not improve after 48 hours. Though it is common to experience pain and discomfort post-injury, pain that persists after a person follows doctor's orders—which typically include rest, ice, compression and elevation—requires further investigation. If the standard R.I.C.E. method fails, and if swelling either grows worse or does not begin to go down after a couple of days, an orthopedic surgeon may be necessary.

Healthcare professionals recommend against trying to work through the pain. If pain does persist for a prolonged period of time, pushing through the pain can delay healing and cause additional harm.

Meeting with an orthopedic surgeon

Just because a person meets with an orthopedic surgeon does not necessarily mean surgery is the only treatment option. Most orthopedic specialists prefer to exhaust conservative methods, such as physical therapy, prescription pain management and cortisone injections, before resorting to surgery. However, it is not uncommon for injuries to fail to respond to these non-invasive methods. Some indicators that surgery may be in order include joint instability, persistent swelling, a broken bone or deformity, and minimal range of motion that does not improve with strength training.

The initial consultation

During the initial meeting with an orthopedic surgeon, the specialist will ask the patient for as much detail regarding the injury and past treatments as possible. The initial consultation may also consist of an interview in which the surgeon asks the patient about their overall health, lifestyle habits, existing health conditions, past surgeries and other factors that may affect the surgery or the outcome.

The surgeon will also prepare the patient for what to expect both in terms of the surgery itself and the outcome. Typically, orthopedic surgery successfully remedies the issue and restores the patient's health. However, it is not uncommon for a person's range of motion to be smaller post-surgery or for a person's capabilities to be more limited.


In an ideal situation, a person's injury heals or joint pain subsides with the R.I.C.E. method. However, life rarely turns out as planned, and when joint or muscle injuries fail to heal, orthopedic surgery may be in order. If this is the case with you, contact an orthopedic surgeon.

Request an appointment here: http://barbertotaljoint.com or call Matthew D. Barber, M.D. at (251) 410-3600 for an appointment in our Mobile office.

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