Five Signs It’s Time to See an Orthopaedic Physician

Orthopaedic & Spine Center
Dr. Bob Snyder

Robert J. Snyder, MD

In my practice, I often see patients who wait a long time to come in for a musculoskeletal problem.  In some cases, the patient will have needlessly suffered pain and dysfunction for years, only to find that their problem could have easily been treated had they come in earlier. I guess some folks really are that afraid of doctors or they think the problem will go away if they ignore it long enough.  In this article, I want to help you discern the difference between when you should treat yourself at home, or when it’s time for a visit with me, your Orthopaedic physician.

  1. When home treatment hasn’t worked – Many musculoskeletal issues and injuries can be treated at home effectively if they aren’t too severe.  Remember the old acronym when treating an acute injury like a sprained or strained body part:

P-rotection – bandage, splint or immobilize the body part, if necessary

R-est – reduce activity and rest the affected body part

I-ce – cover the skin and ice intermittently for 24 hours

C-ompression – apply an ACE bandage to reduce swelling

E-levation – elevate the affected body part above your heart to reduce swelling

Remember, some discomfort, swelling and bruising are to be expected with sprains and strains. These steps, when combined with therapeutic doses of ibuprofen or naproxen sodium for inflammation and pain relief often help issues greatly improve within a day or two.  If not, it may be time to see an Orthopaedist for x-rays and further treatment, such as medications, bracing/splinting or Physical Therapy

2. If your injury or problem causes severe and intense pain, swelling, fever over 101.5°, redness, nausea/vomiting – call my office immediately!

3. If you experience numbness, weakness, tingling, or burning sensations in your arms or legs – This is a sign you are experiencing radiculopathy or nerve pain in the limbs, which typically signals a pinched nerve somewhere in the spine or a compromised nerve elsewhere.  This is a problem that should be dealt with as soon as possible to avoid lasting nerve damage.

4. If you experience instability – Our bodies were designed to be stable, to function and move well in an upright stance.  If your knee is constantly giving way on you, or your back feels like it won’t hold you up without hurting, you have a problem and may find yourself on the ground without warning.  Whatever the body part, instability is dangerous for the patient.  The cause for the instability needs to be found and repaired or stabilized through Physical Therapy, bracing or even surgery. 

5. When you are disabled and can’t function – This applies to someone who has arthritis and can’t get out of a chair or to a football player who gets a “stinger” while blocking, or to a person who breaks their leg in a motor vehicle accident and can’t walk on it – if they are unable to do normal, everyday activities due to a musculoskeletal issue or injury, that is a great reason to hurry to an orthopaedist right away. These examples given would be individuals who would need specialized workups and care, medications, physical therapy, perhaps even surgery, to prevent further issues and to help them function normally again.


Make an appointment with Dr. Snyder or another OSC provider by clicking the “Request Appointment” button below or by calling (757) 596-1900.

Request Appointment