How to Plan For an Orthopedic Procedure Before the Year Ends
Planning is always good, especially when you’re in pain. If you have a painful catch in your wrist from typing all day or a nagging knee injury that keeps barking at you when you walk the dog, it might be time to look into solutions.
You won’t be alone. Orthopedic providers agree patients want book surgeries prior to the holidays or before the new year – and a new deductible – kicks in.
“I like to lay out options, but let patients decide,” said surgeon Travis Liddell, MD, Avera Orthopedics Sioux Falls. “We’ll look at choices, things going on in their lives and of course consider insurance.”
Do I Need Surgery for My Pain?
Anyone considering surgery for joint pain should realize not every appointment leads to booking a surgery. It begins with an exam and consultation.
“Seeing a joint surgeon is a good step, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to get a procedure,” said surgeon Benjamin Walters, DO, Avera Orthopedics Sioux Falls.
“X-rays help with diagnosis,” Walters said. “But the face-to-face conversation with the surgeon is vital.” During that meeting, patients will share insight on many things, including:
- How much pain they’re experiencing in the joint or extremity
- How long the pain or lack of mobility has been affecting them
- What limits are in play at the time – including things the patient can’t do anymore
- Other efforts that tried to help lessen pain
In some cases, a less-intrusive pain-reducing treatment procedure may be all it takes, no matter what your work requirements are. Walters said open-ended conversations help patients. “I’ve helped farmers who need to get back in the field quickly,” he added.
Liddell said that even in cases with patients who are “in a hurry” can benefit from the consultation. “We take a moment to pause and evaluate,” he said. Some pain points might not be “just” a knee or back problem. Thorough examination of the patient can help to address the root of the issue.
“Arthritis is often a cause of joint pain, and yes, it can be progressive as a condition,” Walters said. “Yet a delay of a few weeks or months won’t be fatal.”
Thorough exams can be opportunities for orthopedic experts to educate patients on all their options. It’s easy for a non-clinical individual to assume the worst or expect bad news when they see a doctor.
“We meet with patients and learn their goal – that could be reducing pain, removing it completely or planning other parts of their life, from harvest to a wedding to a big trip,” Liddell said.
Solutions for Hand or Wrist Pain
People with hand pain or tingling fingers, along with sensations of burning, numbness or weakness may have carpal tunnel syndrome. Minimally invasive procedures can address those feelings of “pins and needles” in the hands and wrist.
“Orthopedics keeps changing, and the approaches we now use reduce incision size, time in the facility and in most cases, time needed to recover,” said hand surgeon Razvan Nicolescu, MD, Avera Orthopedics Sioux Falls. “Most of my patients use the treated hand on the day of the procedure.”
Nicolescu said no two carpal-tunnel patients are the same but said planning for the procedure before the year ends is sensible. “We do see an uptick in scheduling, not just in carpal tunnel surgeries, but in many areas.”
Recovery – How Long It Takes
Recovery from elective procedures comes with good news: it’s most-often “weeks not months” and that timeframe may fit your holiday downtime.
Knee replacement recovery times average around six weeks; patients who have carpal tunnel procedures might recover in the same timeframe – but many times faster, sometimes in only a couple weeks.
Motivated, educated patients with clear-cut goals do best.
“We encourage patients to do what’s sometimes called ‘pre-hab’ where they get more active prior to treatment or procedures,” Walters said.
“When patients know what to expect, they tend to have better outcomes in recovery.”
Learn more about getting your sore knee, hip or hand evaluated.
Pictured above is Bryce Braaksma, DO, Avera orthopedic surgeon during a surgical procedure.