When to See an Orthopedic Specialist

Many people assume that because “surgeon” is in his title, a trip to visit Dr. Jamie Frantz will result in a surgical procedure.

But Frantz, an orthopedic surgeon with Beloit Health System who is fellowship trained in sports medicine, doesn’t push someone to go under the knife without exhausting other options.

“A lot of people are hesitant to see an orthopedic surgeon because they start thinking about surgery,” he says. “Realistically, we treat every musculoskeletal complaint: broken bones, tendons, muscles and more. Surgery is part of what we do, but it’s not the majority of where we spend our time.”

While acute injuries – those suffered suddenly, such as from a fall – could require surgery if the injury is severe, there is a host of nonsurgical treatment options to help patients suffering from chronic injuries – the type that develop gradually. A medical team – orthopedic surgeons, physical therapists, nurses, physician assistants and nurse practitioners – discuss possible remedies, which might include stretching and home exercise programs, anti-inflammatory medications, cortisone-type injections and “all sorts of more conservative or non-surgical interventions before we get to the surgical intervention,” Frantz says.

There are certain things patients should expect when they visit an orthopedic surgeon. In most cases, the medical staff will start with an imaging test even before the patient sees a doctor.

“The other thing people should expect is that, typically, if you come in for a new injury, there’s going to be some kind of a specialized examination routine to evaluate that injury or that problem,” Frantz says. “Sometimes people have a sore joint or leg or arm, and they don’t want to move that arm. But that is one of our key ways to make a diagnosis and get an idea of what’s going on. A hands-on examination is very important.”

When should a person visit an orthopedic surgeon? Shoulder pain, for example, is a common ailment and could be a good reason to schedule a visit.

“I don’t think everyone who has shoulder pain for a day or two needs to come see us,” Frantz says. “But when the shoulder pain affects their daily life – they can’t put on their purse, can’t wash their hair – they should start to think about seeing a specialist.” ❚