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What orthopedic injuries can I treat at home?

If you’ve experienced an orthopedic injury and there’s not a lot of deformity—if there’s a little swelling, and you can walk on it and are comfortable with just ice and over-the-counter medication—then it’s probably fine to wait before seeing the doctor. You can give it a day or two and see if you start to feel better.

With most back injuries, unless you're unable to walk or have pain so severe it's affecting your daily routine, it's fine to manage that yourself. Again, most regular sprains and strains are going to be better in three to five days in a young person. Sometimes it may take a week or more in someone older.

It's important to remember that you're not burning any bridges if you wait a couple of days to see a doctor. People sometimes have the misconception that if it's broken, and you don't see somebody right away, something bad will happen. But, truly, if you were to go to the emergency room, sometimes it's a little break that wasn't displaced. They would splint you up and tell you to see an orthopedic doctor the following week.

A lot will depend on your comfort level. If you’re managing fine with the pain and you don’t have a lot of deformity, it's okay to wait and see if it gets better. If it's broken, it's probably not going to get better in two or three days; but, if it's a sprain, it's going to be heading that way.

Bruises and sprains are common orthopedic injuries you can treat at home. The treatment has an acronym, which is "RICE": Rest, Ice, Compress and Elevate. While most bruises and sprains can be managed at home without consultation of a healthcare provider, it is important to recognize when further help is warranted. Warning sings that further help is needed include:

  • inability to bear weight
  • instability of a joint
  • obvious deformity of the extremity
  • moderate to severe pain
  • numbness
  • tingling
  • inability to move the extremity or joint through simple range of motion

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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.