What are the most common orthopedic injuries?

Dr. Michael J. Craig, MD
Orthopedic Surgeon

Orthopedic injuries affecting bones and joints can be caused by degenerative conditions such as arthritis or sudden trauma from a fall or collision. Five of the most common conditions include:

  • Dislocation. When a joint is forced out of position, the affected area may swell and the bone may be visibly displaced. Dislocated joints are common in the ankles, hips, elbows and jaw.
  • Fracture. A break in the bone may occur as a result of sudden impact or because of weakened bone density caused by osteoporosis. Fractured bones may cause numbness, redness and/or severe pain. Someone who has fractured a bone may not be able to move the affected limb.
  • Knee injury. When muscles and/or tendons in the knee are injured by sudden twists or impacted by conditions such as osteoarthritis, the joint will not function properly. As a result, you may experience challenges with mobility, pain and swelling in the area. Depending on the cause and severity of the injury, your doctor may recommend knee replacement surgery.
  • Rotator cuff injury. The muscles and tendons in the shoulder are crucial for strength and stability in the arm. Injury or overuse can cause them to break down suddenly or over time. To treat a damaged rotator cuff, your doctor may prescribe a variety of treatments, including anti-inflammatory medication, electrical stimulation therapy, injections of cortisone or even surgery.
  • Sprain or strain. Sprains occur when the ligaments (tissues connecting bones to joints) are stretched or torn. You may notice bruising, pain and swelling in the case of a sprain. You may even hear a pop when the injury occurs. Strains happen when the muscles or tendons endure similar stretching or tearing. In addition to redness and pain, this type of injury may cause muscle spasms and difficulty moving.

The most common orthopedic injuries are twisted knees, which can be a tear of a ligament or the meniscus (a structure in the knee that's commonly torn). Sprained ankles are also very common. Incidentally, once you've sprained an ankle, you're much more likely to do it again, so it takes even more vigilance and care to protect that.

Wrist sprains or fractures are common as well, as are shoulder injuries, like either a sprain or a rotator cuff tear. Depending on the age of the patient, sometimes there's even a fracture around the shoulder. Back sprains are also quite common.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.