Nearly 30 million Americans develop musculoskeletal problems each year in the United States.
Fortunately, most of the aches and pains that can affect bones, joints, soft tissues, and nerves will go away in time with over-the-counter medications, rest, or the use of an ice pack or heating pad in the affected area.
But when musculoskeletal problems result in frequently recurring and increasingly distracting pain or severely limit mobility, you may be referred to a Los Angeles orthopedics doctor for further evaluation and treatment. Here are five ways seeing this type of specialist may benefit you if you’re dealing with musculoskeletal issues.
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1. Managing Pain Better
A common reason to visit a Los Angeles orthopedics specialist is to find better ways to manage pain. It’s a process that typically involves a thorough medical exam and evaluation. The way your initial exam is conducted will be based on your main complaints. For instance, a physical exam for chronic pain often includes looking for tender or weak spots and signs of inflammation and irritation around joints. You may also be asked about such things as what activities or movements seem to make your pain more noticeable, your general activity level, and what treatments you’ve already tried.
Results from your initial examination will be combined with appropriate tests that may include X-rays, nerve testing, bone scans, range of motion testing, MRIs and CT scans, and injections for diagnostic purposes. After discussing your goals and developing an understanding of the source of your discomfort, an orthopedist may recommend any of the following pain management techniques:
- Physical therapy exercises
- Massage therapy
- Hot and cold therapy
- Activity modification
- Prescription anti-inflammatory medication
- Injections for therapeutic purposes
2. Restoring Range of Motion
If your pain is linked to an injury or a progressive condition like arthritis, your primary goal may be to restore your range of motion. An orthopedist can help with this goal by evaluating joints to determine how significantly function is affected. With range of motion issues related to an injury, arthroscopic surgery is sometimes recommend to “clean out” an affected joint or repair minor damage to ligaments or tendons.
When it’s arthritis that’s impeding range of motion, a Los Angeles orthopedics specialist may suggest an exercise program designed to relieve pain, fatigue, and stress on joints in a way that also preserves the affected joint’s structure and function. While it may be tempting to avoid physical activity altogether when joints are affected by arthritis, doing so can make muscles weaker and increase pain and limit mobility even more.
3. Improving Athletic Performance
Another common reason to visit an orthopedic specialist is because you’ve been sidelined by a sports injury that’s affecting your athletic performance. Whether you’re a weekend warrior or a seasoned pro, there are steps that can be taken to restore your ability to run, kick, serve, putt, or complete your next 10K without distracting pain. Assessments of athletes typically consist of:
- Agility testing
- Functional balance testing
- Strength and flexibility assessments
- Running and/or jumping analysis
Should surgery be necessary for sports-related injuries involving dislocations, fractures, ACL or rotator cuff damage, or conditions like tendinitis, an orthopedist can also recommend a rehabilitation plan. You’ll also be given advice on how to safely return to your preferred sports.
4. Preventing Injuries
There’s research suggesting that athletes that keep injury prevention strategies in mind are less likely to sustain a sports-related injury. An orthopedist can provide similar advice if your goals include getting back to activities such as gardening and daily walking without pain. Warming up before getting active, wearing proper protective gear while playing sports, and paying attention to diet and exercise habits are just some of the things patients can do to minimize injury risk. Advice can also be tailored to patient needs. If, for example, you’re a competitive runner you may benefit from avoiding over-striding, wearing supportive shoes, focusing on form, and gradually increasing your miles rather than abruptly changing your routine.
5. Possibly Eliminating the Need for Surgery
Not all orthopedic conditions will require surgery, especially if a correct diagnosis of the source of the problem is made. It’s not unusual for patients to notice better results with various types of physical therapy once recommended exercises and therapeutic techniques are based on an accurate diagnosis. With spine pain, for instance, discovering that the source of discomfort is the piriformis muscle and not the sciatic nerve may allow a patient to benefit from stretches that specifically target this muscle.
Los Angeles orthopedics specialists want to see patients reach a point where pain is either no longer an issue or easier to manage. One way to achieve this goal is to make education part of a patient’s treatment plan. This means identifying things like improper form and technique that may make athletes more susceptible to injury and issues with posture that might be contributing to back, shoulder, knee, or neck pain. Regardless of the nature of your musculoskeletal problem, learn to listen to your body. If you’re experiencing sudden or unusual aches and pain or having trouble with your mobility and flexibility, don’t ignore signs that something’s wrong. The sooner you seek input from a orthopedist with an in-depth understanding of the many issues that can affect bones, joints, and muscles, the more likely it is you’ll respond well to treatment.