It’s all too easy to put off medical care, especially when the problem seems relatively minor. You know the drill:
“Oh, I just tweaked it. It’ll be better in a few days”.
“I’m just getting older now, these things happen”.
“Injuries are part of the sport. I’ll play through the pain and it’ll get better eventually”.
Except it often doesn’t get better. We learn to live with and work through the pain. We learn to cope with it and avoid situations that would aggravate our injuries, rather than finding the time (and money!) to deal with the problem once and for all.
“A visit to an orthopedic surgeon seems like overkill for such a small injury…”
If this sounds like you or someone you might know, read on…
1 – You’ll Probably Make it Worse
Certain problems like over-use injuries (tendonitis, sprains) may go away with rest and recuperation, but it can be nearly impossible to differentiate between these and more insidious injuries like tendon ruptures, meniscus tears, cartilage tears and fractures. Judging these injures by location and severity of pain alone can be a recipe for disaster.
Small tendon, meniscus and cartilage tears need to be accurately assessed and monitored to ensure that they heal properly – or at the very least, don’t get worse. Some minor injuries require the joint be immobilized while healing, as well as prescription strength medications to help deal with pain, inflammation and stiffness.
Our Orthopedic Surgeon, Dr Jonathan Paley, has the experience, medical staff and facilities to attend to your injury all in one place.
2 – You’ll Create Other Problems
Even the smallest injury can force other muscles and structures to alter their natural range of motion, to compensate for and protect that injury.
For example, if you ignore a torn ACL, you will probably walk with a limp. Without really thinking about it, you will put less weight on your injured leg, and more weight on your healthy leg. Due to lack of use, the muscles in your injured leg will atrophy (get smaller and weaker). The joints in your healthy leg will be under increased strain as they literally carry a heavier load.
Your imbalanced, swinging gait will cause excess strain on your entire musculature. In patients who have lived with an injury for a long time, their orthopedic surgeon will often see secondary problems caused by their body being forced to compensate for the injury: accelerated arthritis in other joints, excessive wear and tear on meniscus and cartilage, foot and ankle problems, etc.
3 – You Can Make The Problem More Difficult to Fix
What may have started out as a small, easy to fix muscle or tendon tear can easily get worse.
To treat a small (grade 1) tear, a joint or muscle should be isolated to prevent it from moving. If this does not happen, the tear or rupture can widen, taking it from a grade 1 to a grade 2 or worse. This makes the problem far more difficult to fix, and may require surgery.
4 – Waiting Causes Scar Tissue to Form
The window of time in which certain injuries can fully heal, without more extensive intervention, is quite small. Torn tissue must still have an adequate blood supply in order to knit back together properly. If you wait too long, scar tissue may form, which will prevent the injury from healing properly.
Surgery is often required to cut out scar tissue, which makes both surgery and recovery more complex. Your orthopedic surgeon will be able to stabilize the injury to minimize further damage, even if surgery isn’t immediately required.
5 – Recovery Will Take Longer and Surgery is More Risky
All of these issues can add up to a much more lengthy recovery time.
More complex, invasive surgeries require more of the affected structures be opened up to view, which increases the risk of post-operative infection. What may previously have been a simple keyhole surgery (several small incisions) may now become an open surgery, which comes with a bigger scar, longer down-time and harder physical therapy.
Wound care is also added to the list of post-operative concerns, which can be especially difficult for elderly or diabetic patients (see our article on Diabetic wound care here) to care for properly.
Longer surgeries also require longer periods of time under anesthesia, which can increase risks for people with other conditions such a heart problems, obesity and diabetes.
If this article has persuaded you of anything, we hope it is that you should get that problem area looked at now! Don’t wait until your injury is much more severe, with higher risks of complications and a longer recovery, before getting the treatment you need. Call Dayton Orthopedic Surgery at (937) 436-5763 to schedule a consultation.