Orthopaedic surgeons specialise in the diagnosis, treatment, prevention and rehabilitation of musculoskeletal injuries and diseases. The musculoskeletal system includes muscles, bones, joints, ligaments, tendons and nerves. They use surgical and non-surgical treatments and treat people of all ages.
If you have an injury or disease that may benefit from treatment by an orthopaedic surgeon, your GP may give you a referral to visit this kind of specialist. Typically, you will find orthopaedic surgeons in hospitals, major medical centres and private practices.
What are the most common acute injuries treated by orthopaedic surgeons?
There are a variety of injuries that orthopaedic surgeons treat. The most common injuries and conditions include:
The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is a structure joining the upper and lower leg bones, running diagonally through the knee. It ensures stability in the knee. ACL tear injuries are common in athletes and are often caused by quick stops, starts or turns. When the ACL is torn, it is difficult to bend your knee and stand.
Sprained ankles occur when the ankle is twisted, rolled or turned awkwardly, causing the ankle’s ligaments to overstretch. The ankle becomes swollen and painful. Severe sprains can require medical treatment.
The ligament connecting the heel bone to the toes and supporting the foot arch is called the plantar fascia. When this structure is repeatedly strained, plantar fasciitis can occur. This is the most common form of heel pain and symptoms including weakness, inflammation or swelling may be present.
If you twist or turn quickly with your knee bent and foot in place, you could tear the meniscus- a piece of cartilage in the knee. Meniscus tears are a common injury for athletes and the elderly.
Commonly known as a dislocated shoulder, a labral tear occurs suddenly and causes severe pain. When the shoulder is dislocated, it can make the arm look out of place. They are typically easy to diagnose and can be caused by falls, accidents or heavy contact during sport.
Repetitive motions can cause overuse injuries such as tennis elbow. It causes pain and can disrupt the patient’s range of motion.
Rotator Cuff Tear
A tear in the rotator cuff can be caused by an acute injury or prolonged degeneration. Symptoms include stiffness, limited range of motion and pain when the person attempts to raise their arm or rotate the shoulder.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
A pinched nerve in the wrist can cause carpal tunnel syndrome. Health conditions including diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and acute wrist injuries can all lead to the development of carpal tunnel syndrome. Numbness, weakness, pain and tingling are common symptoms.
Distal Radius Fracture
Wrist fractures are often caused by falling with an outstretched hand. An orthopaedic surgeon can help to immobilise the wrist with casts or perform surgery if necessary.
A compression fracture is characterised by tiny cracks in a bone. It can lead to bone collapse and most commonly occurs in the back.
Caused by overuse and repetitive actions, stress fractures can be painful and prevent the patient from participating in strenuous activity or sport. Stress fractures typically take between 6 and 8 weeks to heal.
I have a different injury. Why have I been referred to an orthopaedic surgeon?
Orthopaedic surgeons treat musculoskeletal injuries and disorders; there are currently over 150 recognised musculoskeletal conditions. The list above outlines the most common injuries, and you should not be concerned if your diagnosed condition does not appear.
How will visiting an orthopaedic surgeon help my injury?
Visiting an orthopaedic surgeon has numerous benefits for people with a musculoskeletal injury. These include:
- Pain reduction
- Improve range of motion
- Get back to work or sport
- Determine whether you need surgery
- Get a specialist opinion and diagnosis
If you believe visiting an orthopaedic surgeon may treat your injury, you should visit your GP. Your GP will determine which specialist can treat your condition and will provide a medical referral letter if applicable. Smart Referral provides patients with a choice of practitioner. Upload your referral letter to Smart Referral today and choose from the range of orthopaedic surgeons in your area.