Your musculoskeletal system — which is comprised of 206 bones connected by joints, muscles, ligaments, tendons, and nerves — protects your internal organs, supports your weight, and allows you to move. It’s a complex, interdependent system where even a minor disruption can result in discomfort and physical limitation.
Your orthopaedic surgeon is trained to diagnose and treat any injury, deformity, or disease that interrupts this system. General orthopaedics covers all kinds of common and complex conditions like:
Ready to see an orthopaedic specialist about joint replacement to relieve your pain? Before you go, consider how you’d answer certain questions he or she may ask. Your specialist should also ask questions about your medical and health history. Of course, you should be as thorough as possible when answering.
While every orthopaedic evaluation is different, there are many commonly used tests that an orthopaedic surgeon may consider in evaluating a patient’s condition.
In general, the orthopaedic evaluation usually consists of:
Your medical history is taken to assist the orthopaedic surgeon in evaluating your overall health and the possible causes of your joint pain. In addition, it will help your orthopaedic surgeon determine to what degree your joint pain is interfering with your ability to perform everyday activities.
What the physician sees during the physical examination — which includes examination of standing posture, gait analysis (watching how you walk), sitting down, and lying down — helps to confirm (or to rule out) the possible diagnosis. The physical exam will also enable the orthopaedic surgeon to evaluate other important aspects of your hips and knees, including:
If you are experiencing pain in your hip joint, your back may be examined because hip pain may actually be the result of problems in the lower spine.
After the physical examination, X-ray evaluation is usually the next step in making the diagnosis. The X-rays help show how much joint damage or deformity exists. An abnormal X-ray may reveal:
Occasionally, additional tests may be needed to confirm the diagnosis. Laboratory testing of your blood, urine, or joint fluid can be helpful in identifying specific types of arthritis and in ruling out certain diseases. Specialized X-rays of the back can help confirm that hip pain isn’t being caused by a back problem. Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) or a bone scan may be needed to determine the condition of the bone and soft tissues of the affected joint.
In order to assist the orthopaedic surgeon in making a diagnosis, it may be helpful to write down your answers to the following questions before the appointment: