Orthopedic Surgery: When to Consult a Specialist?



Is your knee hurting when you climb stairs? Is your hip causing you pain and preventing you from sleeping at night? If so, it might be time to consult an orthopedic surgeon. An orthopedic surgeon is a physician specializing in diagnosing and treating musculoskeletal conditions – essentially, your bones, joints, ligaments, tendons, and muscles. While some orthopedic issues can be treated with medications, physical therapy, or other non-surgical options, surgical intervention might sometimes be necessary to relieve pain, restore mobility, and improve your quality of life. So, how do you know if you should schedule an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon? Here are some signs to watch for.

What is an Orthopedic Surgeon?

An orthopedic surgeon is a physician specialized in the treatment of injuries and diseases of the musculoskeletal system. In other words, bones, joints, ligaments, tendons, and muscles. If you’re experiencing chronic or acute pain, have fractured a bone, torn a ligament, or need a hip or knee replacement, this is the right specialist to consult. 

Here are some reasons why you should consider making an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon:

  • You’re suffering from chronic pain in your back, hips, knees, or another joint that limits your movement or quality of life. An orthopedic surgeon can diagnose the issue and recommend appropriate treatment such as physical therapy, medications, or surgery.
  • You’ve fractured a bone or torn a ligament. Fractures and ligament tears require accurate diagnosis and treatment for proper healing. An orthopedic surgeon can realign fractures, repair ligaments, and prescribe physical rehabilitation therapy.
  • Your primary care physician has referred you to a specialist. If your doctor believes your issue requires the expertise of an orthopedic surgeon, don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment. Prevention is better than cure!
  • You’re considering a surgical procedure such as total hip or knee arthroplasty. During a consultation, an orthopedic surgeon can determine the best surgical treatment for your condition, taking into consideration various factors, including physical, socioeconomic, and psychological aspects. They will also explain the procedure and the recovery process in detail.

How to Know If You Need an Orthopedic Surgeon

If you’re experiencing chronic or acute pain in your bones, joints, or muscles, it might be time to consult an orthopedic surgeon. It’s important to plan an orthopedic visit if you’re suffering from chronic conditions or injuries affecting bones, joints, muscles, tendons, or nerves. Here are some signs that might prompt you to consult an orthopedic surgeon:

  • Intense or persistent pain in your back, knees, hips, or shoulders. If the pain prevents you from performing your normal daily activities for more than a few days, consult a physician. An orthopedic surgeon can diagnose the issue and suggest appropriate treatment.
  • Stiffness or swelling in joints that doesn’t go away. If your joints become stiff, swollen, or warm to the touch and treatment no longer provides relief, consider consulting your family doctor and/or scheduling an appointment with an orthopedic specialist.
  • Deformity or misalignment of a limb. If a limb appears deformed or twisted abnormally, consult an orthopedic surgeon as soon as possible. It could be a fracture or an injury requiring surgical treatment.

An orthopedic surgeon is a specialist in surgery and medical care related to the musculoskeletal system. If you’re showing signs of potentially serious issues with your bones or joints, don’t hesitate to consult an orthopedic surgeon for accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment. Your health and mobility are too valuable to wait.

Joint Pains: When to Consult a Specialist

When joint pains become chronic or affect your mobility and quality of life, it’s time to consult an orthopedic specialist. An orthopedic surgeon is a physician specializing in diagnosing and treating injuries and diseases of the musculoskeletal system. They can determine the underlying cause of your symptoms and recommend an appropriate treatment plan.

Acute or Sudden Pains

If you’re experiencing acute and sudden pains in your joints, immediately consult an orthopedist. These intense pains could be a sign of a fracture, cartilage tear, or another serious injury that requires swift diagnosis and care. An orthopedist has the expertise and resources to perform complementary exams that aid in diagnosis.

Swelling or Stiffness

Persistent swelling, redness, or stiffness in the joints is abnormal and should be evaluated. These symptoms could be signs of arthritis, bursitis, tendinitis, or nerve damage. An orthopedist can examine your joints, request necessary imaging tests (X-rays or MRIs), and determine an appropriate treatment, which might include medications, physical therapy, a brace, or, in severe cases, joint replacement surgery.

Limited Range of Motion

If your joint pains prevent you from moving freely and flexibly, consult an orthopedic surgeon. Limited range of motion and loss of mobility can have a significant impact on your independence and quality of life. An orthopedist can diagnose the underlying condition, such as osteoarthritis or a ligament-tendon tear, and recommend appropriate treatment to improve flexibility and function. Options may include corticosteroid injections, physical therapy, or, in severe cases, joint replacement.

  • Age-Related Changes: With age, joints and bones naturally degenerate, often leading to pains, stiffness, and decreased range of motion. Consult an orthopedist for an accurate diagnosis and recommendations for managing symptoms.
  • Injuries: Sports injuries, accidents, and traumas can all damage joints, muscles, and bones. Any persistent pain or reduced mobility should be examined by an orthopedic specialist.
  • Overuse: Repetitive movements or high-impact activities can lead to overuse injuries in joints, tendons, and muscles. Consult an orthopedic specialist for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Fractures and Bone Injuries: When to Consider Orthopedic Surgery

When you experience intense pain, swelling, or an inability to move a joint, it’s time to consult an orthopedic surgeon. An orthopedic surgeon specializes in conditions and injuries of the musculoskeletal system. They can accurately diagnose the problem and determine if orthopedic surgery is necessary to address it.


If you have suffered a fracture due to an accident or injury, consult an orthopedic surgeon immediately. They will follow up with additional tests as needed, such as X-rays, MRI, or others. Depending on the diagnosis, if surgical intervention is needed, it will be performed to fix and repair your fracture. The use of osteosynthesis materials is often appropriate in the surgical treatment of fractures (pins, screws, external fixators, intramedullary nails).

Torn Ligaments and Tendons

Ligaments connect bones, while tendons connect muscles to bones. Injuries to these connective tissues often require orthopedic surgical intervention to repair. Common procedures include anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstruction, rotator cuff repair, and ankle ligament reconstruction. Surgery reattaches or replaces the torn ligament or tendon.

Joint Injuries

Joint injuries such as dislocations, cartilage or meniscus tears, and osteochondral defects may require surgical treatment by an orthopedic specialist. They may perform arthroscopic surgery using small incisions and an arthroscope to visualize and access the joint, or perform open surgery depending on the surgical approach needed. Damaged tissues are repaired or removed.

Chronic Joint Conditions

Conditions like arthritis, osteoarthritis, and osteonecrosis cause joint deterioration over time, leading to pain, stiffness, and loss of mobility. If conservative treatments are no longer effective, your orthopedic surgeon may recommend joint replacement surgery. They will replace the damaged joint with an artificial prosthesis to relieve pain and restore function.

Consulting an orthopedic specialist for accurate diagnosis and potential surgical treatment of fractures, tears, injuries, or chronic joint conditions can help reduce pain, restore mobility, and improve quality of life. While orthopedic surgery comes with risks, when necessary, it can truly be life-changing. Don’t live with chronic pain or disability, as these highly qualified doctors can assist you.

Knee Surgery: When to Consider an Intervention

Knee pain can significantly impact your quality of life. If conservative treatments such as rest, ice, compression, and physiotherapy are not providing relief, it might be time to consider knee surgery. An orthopedic surgeon will determine, based on several factors, whether you require orthopedic surgery and recommend the best options based on your condition.


Arthroscopic knee surgery is a minimally invasive procedure used to diagnose and treat knee issues. The surgeon inserts a tiny camera into the knee joint to visualize internal structures. They can then perform repairs or remove damaged tissues. Arthroscopy is often used for meniscus tears, ligament injuries, and foreign bodies. Recovery time is typically a few weeks.

Partial Knee Replacement

If only a part of the knee joint is damaged, a partial knee replacement, called a Unicompartmental Knee Arthroplasty (UKA), may be recommended. The surgeon replaces only the affected area of your knee with an artificial implant. The rest of the joint and knee tissues remain intact. Partial knee replacements have a shorter recovery and rehabilitation duration compared to total knee replacements.

Total Knee Replacement

In cases of arthritis or severe injury, a total knee replacement can provide the best relief for pain and mobility. The entire knee joint is replaced with metal and plastic artificial components. While the recovery process may take three months or more, total knee replacements are highly successful in eliminating pain and restoring function.

Talk to your doctor if medications and physiotherapy no longer alleviate your knee pain. An orthopedic evaluation can determine whether knee surgery is the right choice for you based on factors such as:

  • The severity and cause of knee injuries
  • Your age, weight, activity level, and overall health
  • Exhaustion of non-surgical treatments
  • Your willingness and ability to commit to recovery and rehabilitation

Don’t live with chronic knee pain. Consult an orthopedic specialist to find out if knee surgery can help you regain enjoyment in life and the activities you love. They possess the experience and expertise to recommend the most effective treatment for your specific case.

Hip Surgery: When Is Surgery Necessary?

Hip pain can have a significant impact on your quality of life. If conservative treatments like rest, physiotherapy, and medications aren’t providing relief, it might be time to consider hip arthroplasty. Here are some signs that it might be the right option for you.

Limited Mobility

If daily activities like walking, climbing stairs, or simply getting up from a chair have become difficult due to hip pain, limited range of motion, or stiffness, hip arthroplasty can help you regain mobility and independence. The surgery can alleviate hip joint deterioration and repair damage caused by injuries or arthritis.

Intense Pain

Constant hip pain that disrupts your sleep, mood, and daily activities can be debilitating. If you’ve tried lifestyle changes and medications in vain, hip replacement surgery can finally eliminate your pain and help you get back to the activities you enjoy. Discuss pain management options with your doctor to determine if surgery is suitable for your situation.

Progression of Damage

In the case of certain conditions like osteoarthritis, hip joint damage can worsen over time. If imaging tests reveal significant deterioration or if your symptoms are progressing rapidly, early surgical intervention may be recommended to replace the damaged joint before surrounding muscles and tendons are severely affected. Hip arthroplasty can prevent the worsening of damage and may yield better results when performed on younger and healthier patients.

Avoiding Risks

In some cases, delaying hip arthroplasty can increase the risks of falls, obesity, heart disease, and dependence on painkillers. The risks and benefits of the operation depend on your age, overall health, severity of symptoms, and hip joint damage. Discuss your concerns with an orthopedic specialist to decide whether it’s in your best interest to postpone or avoid the operation.

When living with chronic hip pain or injury, the decision to undergo surgery is significant. Discussing your options with a hip orthopedic specialist can provide clarity and help you take control of your life again. If hip arthroplasty is recommended, adhering to recommended lifestyle changes and physiotherapy programs after the surgery is key to a successful recovery.

The 5 Most Common Myths About Orthopedic Surgery

When dealing with chronic joint or muscle pain, orthopedic surgery might seem like an appealing option. However, there are several common myths about orthopedic surgery that you should be aware of before considering it.

Myth 1: Surgery Will Completely Eliminate My Pain

While orthopedic surgery aims to correct pain and mobility issues, some residual discomfort is common. Surgery cannot reverse years of joint damage or arthritis. Being an active participant in your surgery and recovery leads to better outcomes.

Myth 2: I’ll Immediately Return to Normal

Orthopedic surgery requires a recovery process that can span months. Regaining strength and range of motion takes time and diligence in physical therapy. Each patient heals differently, so avoid comparing your progress to others. Stay committed to your exercise regimen and be patient through the highs and lows.

Myth 3: I’m Too Old for Joint Replacement

Age alone doesn’t disqualify you from orthopedic surgery. As long as you’re in good health and committed to the healing process, joint replacement can restore mobility and quality of life even in those over 80 years old. Discuss age-related risks with your doctor.

Myth 4: I’ll Only Need One Surgery

While joint replacements can last 15 to 20 years, some individuals may require a second replacement. Age, activity level, and other health issues can impact the lifespan of an artificial joint. Adhering to precautions to prevent reinjury is important, and know that a second surgery may be necessary.

Myth 5: My Mobility Will Be Like New

An artificial joint can restore function and alleviate pain, but range of motion and strength may still be limited compared to a natural joint. While activities like walking, climbing stairs, and light exercises are generally possible, high-impact sports might need to be avoided to prevent wear and tear. Discuss limitations and precautions with your doctor based on your health and the type of surgery.

Orthopedic surgery can be highly effective in relieving pain and restoring mobility when other treatments have failed. However, approaching the process with realistic expectations for recovery and long-term outcomes is important. When done for the right reasons and with full commitment to post-operative care, orthopedic surgery can significantly enhance your quality of life for years to come.

FAQ About Orthopedic Surgery

Are you experiencing chronic joint pain, reduced mobility, or other orthopedic issues and wondering if it might be time to consult a specialist? An orthopedic surgeon, or orthopedist, is a physician specialized in disorders and injuries of the musculoskeletal system. They treat problems affecting bones, joints, ligaments, tendons, and muscles through both surgical and non-surgical means.

When should I consult an orthopedic surgeon?

Several signs indicate that it’s time to schedule an appointment with an orthopedist:

  • Your primary care doctor has recommended you see a specialist for your health condition.
  • Pain resulting from an injury such as a fracture, muscle tear, or damaged joint is intense or not improving with rest, physiotherapy, or medications.
  • You are suffering from a musculoskeletal condition, such as arthritis or tendonitis, that significantly impacts your mobility, flexibility, or quality of life.
  • Imaging tests such as X-rays, MRIs, or CT scans reveal lesions or abnormalities in bones, joints, or soft tissues.
  • You have difficulty performing daily activities due to limited range of motion, weakness, or instability in your limbs or spine.
  • You are at high risk of osteoporosis or have low bone density and want to discuss treatment options.

What should I expect during my first appointment?

During the initial consultation, the orthopedist will review your medical history and symptoms, conduct a physical examination, and may request additional tests if necessary, such as blood tests, stress tests, or new imaging. They will diagnose your condition and discuss recommended treatment options, whether they are non-surgical approaches like physiotherapy, orthotics, medications, or lifestyle changes, or surgical procedures such as joint replacement, fracture repair, or soft tissue reconstruction. Together, you will determine the best course of action based on severity, risks, benefits, and your personal preferences.

Don’t delay if you think you need to consult an orthopedist. Get the care you need to alleviate your pain, regain your mobility, and continue leading an active and independent life.


So, now you know when it’s time to consult an orthopedic surgeon. If you’re experiencing chronic pain, a severe injury, or a condition that limits your movements and quality of life, don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment. An orthopedic surgeon can diagnose the issue and recommend a treatment suitable for your case, whether it involves physical therapy, medications, or a surgical intervention.

Your health is our priority. Don’t endure pain or limitations that can be relieved through appropriate orthopedic care. Make an appointment for specialized advice.


Read also:

What Is an Orthopedic Clinic?

Private Orthopedic Surgery in Quebec: Is It the Best Choice?

Types of Orthopedic Surgeries

Choosing Your Orthopedic Surgeon

What to Do Before Orthopedic Surgery

What to Do After Orthopedic Surgery

Managing Chronic Pain After Orthopedic Surgery