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Going to a Doctor
Most of us try to minimize the amount of pain we feel. We don’t like to complain, and it may seem like focusing on the pain makes it worse. But when it’s disturbing your sleep and disrupting your daily activities, it may be time to speak to a doctor. Below, you’ll learn about which doctors treat knee pain, get advice on choosing a surgeon and be advised on how to prepare for your visit.
Which doctors treat knee pain?
When you have knee pain, it’s helpful to see a doctor who can help diagnose the cause, so you can find the best treatment. Primary Care Providers, Orthopaedic Surgeons, Sports Medicine Specialists and Rheumatologists are all doctors who can help treat your pain. Keep reading to find out what each of them do.
Primary Care Providers (PCP) / Internists
The medical professionals you see for common medical issues, such as your yearly annual checkup or a non-emergency illness, are referred to as Primary Care Providers (PCP or Internists). Depending on the type and severity of your knee pain, they may refer you to a specialist such as an Orthopaedic Surgeon, a Rheumatologist or a Sports Medicine Specialist for further treatment.
Orthopaedic Surgeons have extensive training in treating injuries and conditions of the musculoskeletal system: the bones, joints and muscles of the body. They could treat your knee pain with medication, physical therapy, steroid injections or knee replacement surgery.
Sports Medicine Specialists
You may think that Sports Medicine Specialists only work with athletes, but that’s actually a common misconception. They work with all types of patients, and specialize in the prevention, evaluation and treatment of injuries related to sports and exercise. These physicians can help knee pain with medication, physical therapy or steroid injections, and if it’s believed that surgery is needed, they’ll refer you to an orthopaedic surgeon for further evaluation.
Rheumatologists diagnose and treat both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, as well as other disorders of the bones, joints, ligaments and muscles. They may recommend treatment of your knee pain with medication, physical therapy or injections, and will refer you to an orthopaedic surgeon if they feel surgery might be needed.
How can I prepare for my doctors visit?
If you feel that your knee pain is affecting your quality of life, it may be time to explore knee replacement surgery. When choosing a surgeon, here are a couple of things you should know and look for when you’re going in for an evaluation:
- Orthopaedic surgeons are medical doctors or osteopaths with an MD or DO degree who have completed a residency in orthopaedics.
- They must be certified by the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgeons.
- Many orthopaedic surgeons choose to specialize even further by taking a fellowship, which usually lasts 6-12 months.
- Your surgeon should take time to hear your concerns and answer your questions fully.
How do I prepare for my visit with an orthopaedic surgeon?
Now that you’ve made an appointment with an orthopaedic surgeon, there are a few things you can do to prepare for your visit, such as finding out about your coverage for surgery and putting together a short history of your health.
Before you decide to get knee replacement surgery, you need to make sure your health insurance plan offers coverage for the procedure, which can cost thousands of dollars. Most health insurance plans, including Medicare, offer coverage for knee replacement surgery as long as the doctor orders the operation.
Here’s what insurance typically covers:
- Visits to your surgeon prior to surgery and any diagnostic tests necessary to evaluate your condition.
- The surgery, including anesthesia.
- Several days in the hospital.
- Preparations to your house for post-surgery recovery, such as the installation of safety bars in your shower or bath.
- Visits to a physical therapist throughout your rehabilitation.
History of Your Health
Before your visit to the orthopaedic surgeon, it’s good to create a medical history that you can bring along with you.
Here’s what you can include:
- All the medicines and supplements you take, including their dosage and frequency.
- Major illnesses or chronic conditions you have suffered from.
- Surgeries you have had and any related complications, such as reactions to anesthesia.
- Allergies and sensitivities you have to food or medications.
- Your family history of diabetes, cancer or heart disease.
- Your lifestyle habits including smoking, alcohol intake, exercise and special diet.
Important Safety Information
As with any medical treatment, individual results may vary. The performance of knee replacements depends on your age, weight, activity level, and other factors. There are potential risks, and recovery takes time. People with conditions limiting rehabilitation should not have this surgery. Only an orthopaedic surgeon can determine if knee replacement is right for you.