Where to seek the right care for orthopedic injuries
If you or a loved one experiences an orthopedic injury, there are
several options for getting care. Some injuries need immediate care at the
emergency room or urgent care clinic, and other injuries can be treated by your
primary care provider (PCP). Knowing which facilities are best for treating
different orthopedic injuries can save you time and money.
What is an orthopedic injury?
Orthopedic care focuses on
injuries and conditions affecting the musculoskeletal system — your bones,
joints, muscles, nerves, ligaments, and tendons. Orthopedic injuries are very
common, but they vary in their level of severity. The following are some common
- Broken bones
- Overuse injuries, such as rotator cuff tears and tendinitis
- Sports injuries, such as ACL tears
- Sprains and strains
Unlike chronic orthopedic
conditions, such as arthritis, which can develop due to wear and tear,
orthopedic injuries usually occur from external trauma or from repeated use of
a muscle or joint. For example, you may injure a bone or muscle if you fall or
get into a car accident. You can get shin splints from increasing the frequency
or intensity of your runs too quickly. Regardless of which type of injury you
have, it's never a good idea to wait very long to receive treatment. The
important thing is to choose where to get the care you need.
Choosing the right place for orthopedic care
Orthopedic injuries range from
minor to life-threatening, so the type of care you need and where to receive it
depends on the injury's severity. The following guide will help you determine
where to seek care following orthopedic trauma.
The emergency room (ER) — The ER is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and
provides care to patients needing immediate attention. As the name suggests,
the ER is for emergencies, such as injuries and conditions where people may
suffer serious disability or die unless treated quickly. The following are some
situations in which orthopedic injuries may warrant a visit to the ER:
- Broken bones, especially if protruding from the skin (open fractures)
- Head injury involving confusion or loss of consciousness
- Neck or spine injury involving loss of sensation or motor skills
- Severe wound or heavy bleeding
Urgent care — Think of
urgent care as the step between needing ER services and reaching out to your
PCP. It's designed for situations where the injury is serious enough to justify
immediate care but still not severe enough for emergency treatment. In other
words, the problem isn't
life-threatening or likely to cause disability. Some injuries and conditions
treated at an urgent care center include:
- Back and joint pain
- Minor broken bones
- Minor cuts with moderate bleeding
- Sprains and strains
An urgent care clinic like Reid Health Ortho
Walk-in NOW may be able to treat a minor muscle, tendon, or ligament tear, as well.
However, total tears of any of these parts will likely require a visit to the
ER. You don't have to schedule an appointment to receive urgent care, making it
ideal if you need help but can't get in to see your PCP.
Primary care — If your injury isn't
life-threatening and you can wait a little while for care, consider scheduling
an appointment with your PCP. Your PCP already knows you and is familiar with
your health history, so you'll get personalized care. Many PCP offices offer same-day
or next-day appointments.
Consider time and cost
When deciding between urgent care, ER services, and primary care,
evaluate the cost. On average, ER services cost much more than a PCP or urgent
care visit. Some estimates claim ER services cost 10 times as much money as urgent or primary
Time is another factor. When patients go to the ER for care, those with
the most severe injuries or life-threatening conditions receive care first. If your
injury is more appropriate for urgent care, you're likely to receive services
faster there than you would in the ER.
When to see an orthopedic specialist
Although not all orthopedic injuries call for immediate care, some situations require advanced care. For instance, if you break a bone or develop an overuse injury, you should schedule an appointment with a clinician specializing in orthopedics. These providers have the knowledge, experience, and techniques to inform you about treatment options and deliver long-term care.
In addition to emergency care,
patients in East Central Indiana and West Central Ohio can meet with orthopedic
specialists at the Reid Health Comprehensive Bone & Joint Center and Reid Health Ortho Walk-in NOW. Contact
us to learn more about our comprehensive