Have you been bothered by nagging pain of your shoulder, hip, fingers, back, or all of the above? If so, how long have you been hurting, and have you seen a doctor yet? If you haven’t, you’re not alone. While most people will seek medical attention for an obvious traumatic injury, those who experience less severe injuries often try to nurse themselves back to health. This isn’t necessarily the best course of action. Additionally, as we get older, we often think of the “aches and pains” of aging as natural, but aging doesn’t have to be accompanied by pain. Chronic pain affects over 100 million people in the US annually, and if it isn’t managed correctly, it will lead to many additional health problems. Joint and muscle pain can be caused by injury; it can also be caused by a number of other diseases. The benefit of seeing an orthopedic doctor for muscle and joint pain is that, through a careful history and examination, your pain will be properly diagnosed. It is only then that your pain can be treated correctly, giving you the best chance of returning to your active and pain-free life.
To understand the importance of seeking appropriate medical attention, it might be best to look at a few hypothetical situations.
I tripped on the curb and twisted my ankle.
This might seem like an obvious trip to the doctor, but what if you’re not sure it’s broken. It might be that the only symptoms you are experiencing is bruising, pain and swelling. Is it just a sprain? Maybe, but a bad enough sprain is reason enough to see an orthopedic specialist. Obviously, if you see that your ankle is bending in an unusual direction, it might be broken, but what if you just can’t put any weight on it? You might need x-rays, splinting, or casting. If you don’t get the right treatment, you could end up with a bone deformity, permanent nerve damage, muscle or ligament damage, and the possibility of chronic pain.
My hands are killing me, especially in the morning.
There are many kinds of inflammatory arthritis that can cause pain and permanent deformity in the joints of your body. This type of arthritis is caused by generalized inflammation of the body that may cause pain in one place, or multiple places. Rheumatoid arthritis is what is called symmetrical–the symptoms are the same on both sides of the body. The most common joints affected are the hands, wrists and feet. Lupus also causes generalized inflammation and joint pain, as well as other symptoms like fatigue, fever and dry eyes. Would you ever think a rash on your face has something to do with your aching hands? Yet, an orthopedic specialist would understand that these two seemingly unrelated symptoms suggest a lupus diagnosis. Psoriatic arthritis will also cause joint pain and swelling, even though most people think of psoriasis as a skin disease. Unfortunately, the longer these types of illnesses go untreated, the greater the chance of permanent deformity, chronic pain and even life-threatening complications will occur. The earlier you see an orthopedic doctor, the better your long-term outlook will be.
Ever since I tripped and landed on my elbows, my shoulder has been bothering me.
This is a situation where the place you might have landed is not where your injury occurred. When you fall and brace with your arms, your shoulders absorb all of the shock. The shoulder joint is held together with and supported by four muscles and their tendons, called the rotator cuff. The greatest concern with pain in the shoulder would be a rotator cuff tear. However, if local inflammation causes thickening, tightening and scar tissue, you could end up with a frozen shoulder. This syndrome can worsen over months until you risk permanent loss of movement. Seeing an orthopedic doctor early on will get you early diagnosis and treatment, hopefully warding off more invasive procedures and surgery.
One day I was fine and the next day my muscles started hurting.
Muscle pain can be caused from anything as simple as an injury, to a whole body illness. A blow to a muscle could cause local inflammation, or it could cause bleeding inside the muscle tissue. Chronic trauma to muscles, like long-distance running on concrete, can cause compartment syndrome, where loss of blood supply can lead to severe and permanent consequences to the injured limb. More generalized muscle pain can be caused by many different things, from simple dehydration and electrolyte imbalances to side effects of medications. However, much more serious illnesses such as liver disease, thyroid disease, Lyme disease and Dengue Fever can also be the cause. The benefits of seeing an orthopedic are early diagnosis and appropriate treatment of both the simple and the complex problem.
I just can’t take my daily walk anymore because my knees can’t take it.
Approximately 240 million people have osteoarthritis, or degenerative joint disease. The most common joints affected are the hips and knees, and the most common risk factor is advancing age. Because your knees and hips are so important in keeping you active and moving, not getting the right treatment for your arthritis can be very debilitating and greatly change your lifestyle. Lack of activity resulting from your pain can also lead to many more chronic illnesses including obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure. The common misconception is that this is just what we expect as we age–just learn to live with it. But that doesn’t have to be the case. There are many ways that your orthopedic specialist can help you decrease your pain and improve your quality of life. This might be as simple as suggesting lifestyle changes, ordering pain medications or sending you to physical therapy. However, there are many other treatments, including injections, laser therapy and surgery, that can get you moving again.
So if you are experiencing joint or muscle pain, don’t just ignore it, waiting for it to go away. And don’t think it’s just something you’ll have to live with. Our friendly team is here to help. To seek the expert advice of Dr. Brett Gilbert, contact us today by calling (919) 788-8797 or request an appointment online, and experience all the benefits that seeing a highly skilled orthopedic doctor will have on your health, welfare and quality of living.