• Orthopedic Surgeon,

Common Orthopedic Conditions: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment Options

Fri, Feb 02, 2024

Orthopedic conditions affect millions of people worldwide, causing pain, discomfort, and limitations in daily activities. You can learn more here about common orthopedic problems, such as arthritis and soft tissue injuries, and what treatment options are available to manage these conditions effectively.

By understanding the causes, symptoms, and available treatments, you can make informed decisions about your health and well-being.

Causes and Symptoms of Common Orthopedic Conditions

Orthopedic conditions refer to ailments, injuries, or diseases that cause pain or dysfunction in the musculoskeletal system. This system is comprised of your body’s bones, joints, ligaments, tendons, and muscles. Orthopedic conditions can vary greatly in nature, from acute injuries like fractures and strains, to chronic diseases such as arthritis. These conditions can affect anyone, regardless of age or lifestyle, and can significantly impact an individual’s ability to perform daily activities.

Understanding different types of orthopedic conditions can help you better communicate with your healthcare provider and take an active role in your treatment plan.

Some common orthopedic conditions include:

Tendon Injuries

Tendons, the fibrous tissues that connect muscles to bones, can become inflamed or injured, leading to painful conditions such as tendonitis and tendinosis, or even a tear. These injuries often occur due to overuse or repetitive movements and can affect various parts of the body, including the elbow, wrist, knee, and shoulder.

Tendonitis is characterized by inflammation and irritation of a tendon. Symptoms typically include pain, tenderness, and mild swelling. It is common in athletes and individuals whose work or hobbies involve repetitive motions.

Tendinosis, on the other hand, is a degenerative condition characterized by chronic tendon damage and the absence of inflammation. It is usually the result of long-term, untreated tendonitis and can lead to decreased strength and flexibility in the affected area.

Ligament Injuries

Ligaments are strong, elastic bands of tissue that stabilize the joints and connect bones to each other. They can be injured or torn when the joint is stressed beyond its normal range, commonly in accidents, falls, or during sports activities. Ligament injuries, often referred to as sprains, can cause pain, swelling, instability, and loss of motion in the affected joint. Sprains are typically graded on a scale of I to III, with grade I being mild damage, grade II being partial tearing, and grade III being complete tearing of the ligament.

Chronic ligament injuries are long-term injuries that occur when a sprain does not heal properly or when a ligament is repeatedly injured, leading to long-term pain, swelling, and instability.

Muscle Injuries

Muscle injuries, often known as strains or pulls, are common orthopedic conditions that can occur due to overuse, overstretching, or improper use of a muscle. These injuries can affect anyone, from athletes to individuals performing everyday activities, and are characterized by pain, swelling, bruising, and a decreased range of motion in the affected area.Similar to sprains, muscle strains are graded on a scale from I to III, with grade I being a mild strain, grade II being a moderate strain, and grade III being a severe or complete rupture of the muscle.

Chronic muscle injuries result from long-term stresses and strains on a muscle, usually due to repetitive activities or poor posture. This can lead to persistent pain, stiffness, and a significant reduction in strength or mobility.


Fractures occur when there is a break in a bone. They can be caused by a high force impact or stress, such as falls, accidents, or sports injuries. Alternatively, fractures may be a result of certain medical conditions that weaken the bones, like osteoporosis. Symptoms of a fracture usually include intense pain, impaired function or inability to move the injured area, swelling, and bruising. In severe cases, there can be visible deformity where the bone may be protruding through the skin, known as a compound or open fracture.

Treatment for fractures depends on the type and location of the break, and can range from immobilization using plaster casts or braces to surgical intervention. Early diagnosis and treatment are crucial to ensure proper healing and restore function of the injured area.


Arthritis is a collective term for over 100 types of joint inflammation, with the most common being osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Arthritis can affect any joint in the body, but it is more common in the hips, knees, spine, and hands. Symptoms typically include pain, swelling, stiffness, and a decreased range of motion in affected joints.

Osteoarthritis is the degeneration of the cartilage in joints, causing bones to rub together and leading to pain and stiffness. Risk factors for osteoarthritis include age, obesity, genetics, and joint injuries.

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease where the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy joint tissues, leading to inflammation, pain, and joint damage. Risk factors include genetic predisposition, lifestyle factors like smoking, and hormonal factors.

Treatment Options

Orthopedic surgeons play a crucial role in diagnosing and managing musculoskeletal conditions, often using a combination of non-surgical and surgical treatment options. Treatment varies depending on the severity and location of the injury, but many orthopedic conditions, such as earlyarthritis and minor sprains, strains, and tendonitis can be managed successfully with conservative treatment methods, including:

  • Rest or activity modification
  • Immobilization, such as a plaster cast or brace to help support and stabilize the affected area
  • Physical therapy to help improve strength, flexibility, range of motion, and overall function in the affected area. A physical therapist will develop a customized exercise program tailored to your specific needs and goals.
  • Pain management medications, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and corticosteroid injections,to help reduce pain and inflammation
  • Assistive devices, like crutches, walker,or a walking stick

Regular stretching and strengthening exercises and use of appropriate protective equipment can help prevent muscle and ligament injuries. Warming up before any physical activities and maintaining a healthy weight can also reduce the risk of orthopedic injuries. Furthermore, maintaining proper form and technique during physical activities helps avoid undue stress on joints, muscles, ligaments, and tendons.

Orthopedic Surgical Treatments

Severe orthopedic injuries and advanced cases of arthritis may require surgical intervention for treatment. Surgery is only considered when all other conservative treatments have been fully explored. The most common orthopedic surgeries include:

  • Arthroscopy – a minimally invasive procedure often used to diagnose and treat problems within a joint. It involves the insertion of a small camera, called an arthroscope, into the joint through a small incision, allowing the surgeon to view the joint and perform necessary treatments.
  • Fracture repair surgery – involves the use of plates, screws, or pins to hold broken bones in place while they heal. This can be performed through open or minimally invasive techniques.
  • Reconstructive surgery – often necessary for severe or complex injuries, such as compound fractures or torn ligaments, and may involve grafting of tissues to repair damage.
  • Joint replacement surgery –a surgical procedure where a damaged or worn-out joint is replaced with a prosthetic implant. It is commonly performed for patients with advanced arthritis or significant injuries.

Orthopedic surgery aims to improve functionality, reduce pain, and enhance the patient’s quality of life. The choice of procedure depends on the specific condition, severity of symptoms, and overall health.After undergoing surgery, patients will require a period of rehabilitation to regain strength and function. Rehabilitation may include physical therapy, occupational therapy, and home exercise programs.

Orthopedic conditions can significantly impact a person’s quality of life, but they are treatable. By understanding the causes, symptoms, and available treatments for common orthopedic conditions, individuals can make informed decisions about their health and well-being.

If you are experiencing any symptoms of an orthopedic condition, you should consult with an orthopedic specialist for proper diagnosis and treatment. With advancements in medical technology and the expertise of orthopedic surgeons, many patients find relief from pain and limitations caused by these conditions.

Expert Orthopedic Surgeon in Raleigh and Apex, NC

For expert orthopedic care, visit board-certified and fellowship trained orthopedic surgeon Dr. Brett J. Gilbert. Dr. Gilbert has substantial experience and expertise in many orthopedic treatment options and surgeries for joints, tendons, ligaments, and other elements of the musculoskeletal system and specializes in treating arthritis in the hip and knee.

So, if you are experiencing pain or reduced function, be sure to access the high quality care you deserve, by calling our office at (919) 788-8797. You can also request an appointment with Dr. Gilbert using our appointment request form, or you can self-schedule your appointment here.

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