3 Tips When to See an Orthopedic Surgeon


Updated 2/08/18

Basketball_player_Orthopedic_Surgeon_webYou started a new exercise program or joined a sports league to get more active. But along the way, you get hurt. Maybe you pulled a muscle, twisted an ankle, over-exerted yourself, or fell wrong – but now you’re in pain. You see swelling and you can’t get around that easily. What do you do now?

Tip 1: Listen to Your Body
Soreness and strains are common during and after physical activity. Since it is your body, you can tell the difference between your normal aches and pains and a possible injury. If you think you have experienced an injury, you should:

  • Immediately stop all activity — don’t “play or work through” pain
  • Follow the “R.I.C.E.” method:
    • Rest the injury or sore area
    • Ice it to reduce pain and swelling
    • use Compression by applying an elastic or ACE bandage to help decrease swelling
    • Elevate the injured or sore area at or above the level of your heart to help minimize swelling
  • If the injury does not improve within two days, see a physician

Tip 2: See the Warning Signs
These warning signs may indicate you need immediate orthopedic care:

  • Pain, especially joint pain that worsens when resting or at night
  • Persistent joint swelling or bruising even after following the R.I.C.E. method
  • Decreased range of motion
  • Noticeable deformity
  • Joint instability
  • Failed improvement

Tip 3: Avoid Injury
To avoid possible injury, you should:

  • Perform warm-ups and stretches before physical activity
  • Perform cool down exercises and stretches at the end of physical activity
  • When starting a new exercise program, begin slowly over time to acclimate your body to the increased activity
  • Perform workouts that build muscle strength to increase joint stability
  • Be mindful of your age and fitness level at all times

Call 320.634.5157 to schedule an appointment with orthopedic surgeon Dr. Michael Holte at Glacial Ridge Hospital in Glenwood, Minnesota.


  1. Kiyel Williams says:

    I did not know about the RICE method before reading this article. Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevate. Something very easy to teach your children as well, I will have to tell my friends about it. Maybe they can teach their kids when they get into sports what to do when they get hurt. Thanks for the awesome post!

  2. Lauren Woodley says:

    I had never heard about the R.I.C.E method before. That being said, though, this seems like a really good preventative strategy to take so that you can make sure that you’re avoiding injury. Plus, it’s a good method to use so that you can check in and know when it’s time to see a doctor or not. I’ll definitely keep this in mind with my own physical activity! Thanks for sharing!

  3. Emily Bennette says:

    I like that you talked about how you should know your body. That does seem like a good idea because it will allow you to realize when something is wrong. That can help you get treatment faster as well. Do you have any advice on what to look for in a orthopedic surgeon?

    • Glacial Ridge Health System says:

      Make sure to find one that is board-certified in Orthopedic Surgery. You’ll also want to read their biographies to learn about their experience, schooling, etc. to ensure qualifications for your particular condition, and to get a sense of the type of person who will be caring for you. Best wishes!

  4. Kendall Everett says:

    It’s interesting that you mentioned looking for immediate orthopedic care when there is no improvement. It’s important that issues are resolved as soon as possible like you mentioned, and that includes a lack of improvement. Communicating with your orthopedic doctor to know what a timeline is for recovery can help you know when you need to return or not.

  5. Marie Watson says:

    Thanks for putting together some signs that might indicate it is time to see an orthopedic surgeon. It makes sense that extreme joint pain, swelling, etc. would be an important warning sign. I would think that it is important to contact a medical professional if you are feeling any discomfort or pain so you don’t cause any serious damage to your joints.

  6. Lauren Woodley says:

    I appreciate the insight you gave about going to see an orthopedic specialist if you have persistent pain. My husband has been having hip pain constantly for a few months now, but he just shrugs it off and says it’s not big deal. It is very helpful to know that this isn’t something to be shrugged off and he should probably go to the doctor. I will pass this along to him so he gets the help he needs. Thank you for sharing.

  7. Lillian Schaeffer says:

    This is some great information, and I appreciate your point that joint pain that worsens when resting means you might need orthopedic care. I injured my knee while playing basketball, and when I’m resting it, it feels even more painful. I’m not sure what the problem is, so I’ll definitely look into getting orthopedic care to get it taken care of. Thanks for the great post!

  8. Jack Mulligan says:

    I’ve noticed that my left food has had consistent pain for a long time now, and I don’t know that it ever really stops. It’s definitely getting in my way and making work a lot harder. From what you said it looks like I should be seeking immediate orthopedic care. Thanks for the heads up.

  9. Thank you for this informative article. I really like that you mention not to “play or work through” the pain. I think that this is a common thing to say, especially for those who are really competitive or want to show they’re good enough. I occasionally pull some back muscles while playing basketball. Thankfully, it hasn’t been too serious. However, after reading this article I will know what to look for and what to do if these signs manifest.

  10. Elsa Anderson says:

    My daughter pulled a muscle during a basketball game and it hasn’t gotten better since. I like your advice of going to see an orthopedic surgeon when there is persistent joint swelling or bruising even after following the R.I.C.E. method that you previously mentioned. I would imagine that the sooner we go to a surgeon, the less time the injury has to get worse and the less of a chance it could cause problems in her future.

  11. Jade Brunet says:

    I did not know that worsening joint pain when resting could mean that one is in need of orthopedic help. It is also good to be aware that a decreased range of motion could be another warning sign. My sister says that visiting her local orthopedist has greatly helped her. She recommends writing questions that you may have before each visit.

  12. Pam Lassila says:

    It is important that you know your body and listen to it! If you try to ignore warning signs or pain you may be having, things could get even worse. It never hurts to see a doctor if you think something bad happened and just resting it isn’t working.

  13. Olivia Nelson says:

    I agree that you would need to see an orthopedic surgeon if an injury does not recover after two days. I would imagine that if you are doing basic treatments and it does not get better it is time to see a professional. My husband injured his foot playing soccer so if it doesn’t feel better soon we’ll have to find an orthopedic surgeon to help out.

  14. Sarah Smith says:

    My sister hurt her ankle running. I like the advice you give about how joint instability could be a warning sign of something serious. Something else to consider is to get a surgeon that accepts your insurance.

  15. Gloria Durst says:

    I like how you say that you would want to avoid injury by stretching before you exercise. It would make sense to want to avoid any injury and help prevent further ones if an injury has occurred. My sister is looking for an orthopedic surgeon for help with her Achilles tendon, so once she gets the surgery she’ll have to be sure to stretch properly to avoid further injury.

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