March 28, 2018

Knee, Hip or Shoulder Pain? When to See an Orthopedist

“Regardless of where in the body you’re experiencing orthopedic pain, there are some general rules that apply,” said David Jarrett, MD, an orthopedic surgeon and Medical Director of Mission Orthopedics. “When it comes to prevention, it’s important to be in shape and warm up. Maintaining ideal body weight for your age, sex and height is also key to preventing a number of problems.”

You can often treat an injury at home by using the RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) method and taking Tylenol. Dr. Jarrett said over-the-counter NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) like ibuprofen and naproxen are generally okay for short-term use, but he advises against long-term use.

Knees

  • Preventing injury – Some people’s knees get out of balance because their extensors are more dominant than their flexors, said Dr. Jarrett. You can maintain knee balance by strengthening your hamstrings, quadriceps and calf muscles.
  • When to see an orthopedist – Knee pain often falls into two categories: sports-related injuries and age-related joint deterioration. Those who are young and athletic often experience twisting injuries that can lead to swollen and unstable knees. Less active patients may have stiffness and increasing pain with weight bearing, making it harder to perform normal activities. Any pain, swelling or stiffness that doesn’t resolve should be addressed by a medical professional.

Hips

  • Preventing injury – You’ll be less prone to experience hip injuries if you keep your core strong, so focus on conditioning your lower back and abdomen so that they’re well toned.
  • When to see an orthopedist – It’s a common misconception that hip pain centers in the buttocks area. Most hip pain is felt as groin pain. Dr. Jarrett said that intense groin pain or difficulty in bending, such as when you put on shoes and socks, are indicators that you should seek medical care.

Shoulders

  • Preventing injury – The muscles that stabilize your shoulder blades are key in keeping your shoulders in good shape. Dr. Jarrett recommends shrugs and pinches with your scapula to hold the shoulder blade nice and toned against the chest wall.
  • When to see an orthopedist – Shoulder pain can often flare up during certain activities, but if you’re experiencing deep, aching shoulder pain at rest even though you haven’t experienced an injury, you should see an orthopedist. Limited range of motion when performing everyday tasks like buckling a seatbelt or fastening a bra also indicates the need for medical evaluation.

David Jarrett, MD, is an orthopedic surgeon and Medical Director of Mission Orthopedics.

If you’re not seeing improvement with at-home care, contact an orthopedist. He or she can rapidly diagnose joint problems and prescribe appropriate treatments.

To learn more about Mission Orthopedics, visit mission-health.org/boneandjoint.

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