Are you having pain in your knee, hip, or your shoulder that just won’t go away? Maybe you’ve tried rest, heat, ice, and Tylenol but nothing seems to help. Have you seen your doctor and done everything that was recommended without relief? This is just one of the many possible situations where your next reasonable step to get back to a pain-free life is to see an orthopedic surgeon. Whether you’ve had an acute injury, have arthritis, or an old injury that is getting worse, or you’re experiencing pain because you over did it, an orthopedic surgeon specializes in helping you recover from any problems you’re having with your bones, joints, muscles, tendons, ligaments or cartilage–anywhere in your body. Your doctor may be advising you to see a specialist, or you may just know it’s time to make that appointment. But, if you don’t already have a relationship with an orthopedic surgeon, how do you know who to see? You may not realize it, but the next steps you take in finding the orthopedic surgeon that’s right for you are very important.
- Ask Your Doctor
Even if you haven’t seen your doctor about your pain or injury, it’s a good idea to find out which orthopedic surgeon they would recommend. Your family doctor knows you and understands your unique healthcare needs. These are things that will have weight on which orthopedic surgeon you need. Additionally, your doctor also knows the community, including its healthcare facilities, available services and specialists practicing in the area. To give an example, if you have a history of osteoarthritis in your knee and your pain is getting worse, your doctor will recommend an orthopedic surgeon who practices in your area, performs surgery in your local hospital or surgical center and who specializes in knee surgery, including knee replacement if necessary. So, calling your doctor first can save you a lot of time in your search for the perfect orthopedic surgeon.
- Not all Orthopedic Surgeons are the Same
Orthopedic surgeons are physicians that have completed a residency in orthopedics after medical school. In five years or more after graduating from medical school, your orthopedic surgeon became specialized in diagnosing and treating problems with all parts of the musculoskeletal system. You may not know this, but not all orthopedic specialists are surgeons—some diagnose and treat noninvasively, while surgeons can also perform surgery to correct a problem. Once you’ve identified you need a surgeon, the next step is finding one that treats your specific needs. For instance, if you are having a problem with your hip, you don’t need a doctor that performs only shoulder surgery. Understanding that most orthopedic surgeons specialize in specific areas of the body is important in your search for the right one for you. A surgeon with fellowship training has another level of training. Being accepted into a fellowship training program is a privilege reserved for the top doctoral graduates. A physician that chooses this path is committing to extra education for a sub-specialty within their specialty. If you have a very specific problem, a doctor with fellowship training in that type of problem is always best.
- Do You Have a Hospital?
When choosing a doctor, it’s important to know which hospitals they have privileges at. It’s true that more and more orthopedic surgeries are done on as an outpatient, however, there are some such as total hip replacements, total knee replacements, or joint revisions surgeries that are often done in a hospital setting. You should make sure that the surgeon you choose not only practices at a hospital that has a convenient location, but also one that you are comfortable with and one that is on your insurance plan. It’s very important to investigate this before you choose an orthopedic surgeon.
- Talk to Your Friends
It’s a great step to ask your primary doctor for a recommendation, but it’s also good to get some firsthand accounts of your friends’ experiences. If you have any friends or family who have had orthopedic surgery, especially something similar to the problems that you are having, ask them who did their surgery. How was their recovery? Are they happy with the results of their surgery? Was the orthopedic surgeon and the office staff responsive to their needs? You can trust that your friend will recommend their surgeon if they had a good experience.
- Do Your Homework
Even after your doctor or friends recommend an orthopedic surgeon, you should do a little of your own research. In today’s technological world there is a wealth of information available to you, so tap into your computer, tablet or smart phone and find out a little more about your orthopedic surgeon. Look at the practice or physician’s website. Read patient reviews. Find out where your orthopedic surgeon went to school, where they did their residency and any fellowships, and where they have practiced in the past. Are they members of any organizations? Are they board-certified? This is all good information that you should weigh as you make your decision.
- Make an Appointment
Unless it’s an emergency, you are going to have time to meet your orthopedic surgeon before you have surgery. Be prepared for your first visit. Try to make a list of questions that you might want to ask. Also be ready to answer questions yourself—when did your problems start, how severe is the problem, is it intermittent or constant, what seems to bring on symptoms? The more your surgeon knows about you, the easier it will be to diagnose your problem. But this appointment is not only a time for exchanging information. Be aware of your reaction to the doctor. Do you feel comfortable talking to him or her? Your relationship with your orthopedic surgeon is important for your recovery, so this is a very important step in your decision process.
- Meet the Staff
If you are going to have a hip replacement, knee replacement, or any other type of orthopedic surgery, you will not only interact with your orthopedic surgeon. You’ll also be scheduling appointments, going into the office for follow up and calling with questions or concerns. Is the staff friendly and responsive? Are they attentive and eager to help? Friendly, competent and efficient office staff will make your experience with orthopedic surgery much more positive.
- Trust Your Instincts
Once you’ve done your research, asked your friends and your doctor, and met your orthopedic surgeon and staff, it’s time to make your decision. If you’ve taken these steps, you’re in a great place to make an educated and informed choice. Now you need to trust yourself—and the surgeon you have chosen. Remember that the relationship you have with your orthopedic surgeon is one of trust. If you have concerns or questions, ask the doctor that you have so carefully chosen. If someone else suggests something or voices a concern about your treatment, again, ask the expert that you have chosen. Orthopedic surgeons are physicians that have spent years specializing in treating the problem that you have. Trust that you have found the one perfect for you.
If you are looking for the perfect orthopedic surgeon, our friendly team is here to answer all of your questions. To seek the expert advice of Dr. Brett Gilbert in Raleigh, Durham, Cary and Apex, who will address your unique concerns, contact us today by calling us at (919) 788-8797 or request an appointment online. Our goal is getting you back to a pain-free life.