Understanding Your Body’s Mechanics
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:
- Back and neck pain
- Sprains and strains
- Fractures and dislocations
- Cartilage and ligament tears
- Bursitis and tendonitis
- Congenital defects and abnormalities
- Bone and soft tissue tumors
Questions Your Doctor May Ask You
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.
- Where is your pain located? Does more than one joint hurt?
- When did the pain first begin? What caused it (if known)?
- Rank your pain on a scale of 1 to 5
- Has the pain gotten worse recently? If so, is it more severe, does it occur more often, or both?
- Does your pain get worse, or occur more often, when you do weight-bearing activities (Example: walking), at rest, or at night?
- Are you taking any medication for the pain? (Make a list of both prescription and non-prescription medications.)
- Are you taking any dietary supplements? (Make a list of vitamins or other “pills” for arthritis, such as chondroitin or glucosamine.)
- How far can you walk without support? With support?
- Can you climb stairs comfortably without help? Do you need to go very slowly and carefully?
- How physically active are you?
- What tests have previously been done to evaluate your joint pain?
Questions to Ask Your Doctor
The questions below provide a way to discuss your joint pain with your doctor or specialist, and whether you’re a joint replacement candidate. Take them with you to your doctor, and be sure to ask any additional questions you may have to address your concerns:
- Are there any pain relief options for me that could work as well as joint replacement?
- If I have joint replacement, how much will it relieve my pain?
- How is the procedure done?
- What do you do to manage the pain after the surgery?
- What are the risks or complications of joint replacement?
- How long will I be in the hospital, and how soon after having the procedure can I get back to normal daily activities?
- Is joint replacement covered by my insurance?
- After the procedure, will I see you or my regular doctor for follow-up care?
- If I decide to have joint replacement, which company’s product do you think will be best for me? Why?
- If I have joint replacement, will you perform my surgery? How many of these procedures have you performed?
- What kind of activities will I be able to participate in after joint replacement?
Preparing for Your Doctor’s Visit
The information that the surgeon gathers during the medical history usually suggests the possibility of several different diagnoses.
A thorough medical history includes:
- A list of all medications you are currently taking
- Information on prior surgeries and/or treatments
- Prior diagnoses
- Family history
The physical examination enables your surgeon to evaluate important aspects of your joints, including:
- Size and length
- Range of motion
- Skin condition
X-Rays help show how much joint damage or deformity exists. An abnormal X-ray may reveal:
- Narrowing of the joint space
- Cysts in the bone
- Spurs on the edge of the bone
- Areas of bony thickening called sclerosis
- Deformity or incorrect alignment
Additional Diagnostic Tests
Occasionally, additional tests may be needed to confirm the diagnosis. These may include:
- Blood tests
- Urine analysis
- Analysis of joint fluid
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
- Bone scan