What does an orthopedic surgeon recommend for osteoarthritis?

Last modified: August 2, 2019

It can be a relief for many people with osteoarthritis to be referred to an orthopedic surgeon. But what does an orthopedic surgeon do? Within orthopedics, doctors work with treatment, care and rehabilitation of patients with injuries and diseases in their joints, muscles and bones. An orthopedic surgeon mainly works on surgical operations, so an assessment of someone with osteoarthritis is mainly based on the need for an operation. Many orthopedic surgeons recommend physical activity on prescription to treat their osteoarthritis patients.

There is more information about training as treatment for osteoarthritis here.

How can an orthopedic surgeon help with osteoarthritis?

An orthopedic surgeon can examine a patient on the basis of their specialization. In this way, they can identify where in the body the osteoarthritis has developed and how far advanced it is. Different patients experience different levels of problems, partly depending on which joints are affected. For example, if you have osteoarthritis in your hip, you may need a lot of movement training. In this case, training, which often involves a physiotherapist, may be sufficient to relieve the pain and stiffness. In other cases it may be necessary to have an operation to fit a new hip.

Being referred to an orthopedic surgeon

A referral to an orthopedic surgeon is really a way of requesting a specialist assessment. Sometimes it may also be a request to take over the care of a patient. A referral should outline the patient’s symptoms, medical history and current list of medication. The referral can be issued by a doctor or a physiotherapist.

Your local health center can almost certainly provide you with a referral to an orthopedic surgeon. There are also orthopedic surgeons in private practice who will see patients without a referral. If the osteoarthritis is in the knee or hip, it is also possible to talk to an orthopedic surgeon without a referral via the Joint Academy app.

Recommendation from an orthopedic surgeon

What an orthopedic surgeon will recommend to their osteoarthritis patients varies depending on the patient’s symptoms. It depends on the joint that the osteoarthritis has developed in and how far the disease has progressed. As an orthopedic surgeon specializes in surgery, the patient usually has their first contact with the surgeon when the symptoms have become so pronounced that an operation may be necessary. Common osteoarthritis operations include replacing the knee or hip joints and today these are a relatively standard intervention. However, an operation is always a last resort in terms of treating osteoarthritis.

There is more information about operations for osteoarthritis here.

What can people with osteoarthritis do for themselves?

In many cases, consulting an orthopedic surgeon is seen as the final stop on the journey towards pain relief. The treatment method that is mainly recommended for osteoarthritis, and which should always be tried first, is long-term, instructor-led training. You can do some training on your own or with a view to prevention. If the patient is overweight, a measure which can reduce the pain could be to lose weight since it reduces the load on the joints. The most important thing is to find routines that work on a daily basis that can relieve the discomfort. Daily walks are extremely helpful, ideally in combination with strength training a couple of times a week.

Read more about how orthopedic specialists and physical therapists work with osteoarthritis.