Accidents can happen anytime – a slip on an icy sidewalk, a fall from a ladder, or even a high-impact collision on the sports field. When they do, the bones, muscles, and joints are often the first to bear the brunt. In such cases, orthopaedic emergencies enter the scene. These situations demand immediate attention, not just to alleviate pain but to restore function and prevent long-term complications.
Here are some common orthopaedic injuries resulting from trauma and accidents.
Perhaps the most well-known orthopaedic emergency, a fracture refers to any break in the continuity of a bone.
- Closed (or Simple) Fractures: The skin remains intact.
- Open (or Compound) Fractures: The bone pierces the skin, leading to an open wound. This type of fracture carries a risk of infection.
Keep the affected area immobilized. If it’s an open fracture, cover the wound with a sterile dressing. Seek emergency care immediately.
A dislocation happens when two bones that form a joint become separated. Commonly dislocated joints include the shoulder, elbow, and fingers.
Do not attempt to pop the joint back into place yourself, as this can cause further injury. Immobilize the joint and head to the nearest emergency room.
3. Sprains and Strains
While not always emergencies, severe sprains and strains can be excruciating. A sprain involves the overstretching or tearing of your ligaments, while a strain refers to muscle or tendon damage.
Apply the R.I.C.E. method – Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. If the pain is severe, or if there’s no improvement after 24 hours, seek medical attention.
4. Tendon Injuries
Tendons are tough, fibrous bands of tissue that connect your muscle to your bone. Injuries can range from mild strains to complete ruptures, as seen in Achilles tendon injuries.
Rest the affected area and seek medical evaluation, especially if there’s a noticeable gap in the tendon or if you’re unable to move the joint.
5. Crush Injuries
Often resulting from heavy objects falling on a body part, crush injuries can lead to severe swelling, bruising, and broken bones.
They can also result in compartment syndrome, a serious condition where increased pressure within a muscle compartment hinders blood flow.
Remove the crushing force if it’s safe to do so. Elevate the injured part and seek medical help immediately.
When to Seek Medical Attention for Orthopaedic Injuries
Recognizing when to head to the hospital or contact a healthcare provider can make a significant difference in recovery time and outcome.
For orthopaedic injuries, the following signs and scenarios should prompt you to seek medical attention immediately:
Visible Bone or Deformity
If there’s an obvious deformity, or if you can see bone through a wound, it’s critical to get to an emergency room right away. This is a clear indication of a severe fracture or dislocation.
Bruising and Swelling
While some bruising and swelling can be expected with minor injuries, rapid and intense swelling or deep bruising can be signs of more serious injuries, such as fractures or significant soft tissue damage.
Loss of Function
If you’re unable to move the injured area, or if there’s a significant loss of strength, it’s essential to have it assessed.
While some pain is to be expected with any injury, if the pain doesn’t begin to subside after a short period of rest or becomes progressively worse, seek medical advice.
Any open wound, especially one associated with a fracture (known as an open or compound fracture), needs immediate treatment to prevent infection and other complications.
Injuries involving Joints
Due to the complexity and importance of joints for movement, any injury that directly impacts a joint should be evaluated by a healthcare professional.
Suspected Compartment Syndrome
Symptoms include severe pain that doesn’t go away with pain medication, numbness, and an affected area that feels tight or full.
This is a medical emergency and requires immediate attention.
After an Accident
If you’ve been involved in a significant accident (like a car crash or a high-impact fall) and you feel off or not yourself, even if there’s no visible injury, it’s wise to get checked out.
Internal injuries or hairline fractures might not be immediately evident.
Unsure of the Severity
When in doubt, always seek a professional opinion. It’s better to be cautious and ensure that an injury is treated appropriately from the outset.
In the age of digital health, remember that many healthcare providers now offer virtual consultations, so if you’re unsure about a potential injury, consider this as an initial step.
However, for more serious signs and symptoms, head directly to a medical care facility.
Orthopaedic Urgent Care in Fairless Hills, PA
At Patient Care Now Urgent Care, our emergency medicine physicians and their support team deliver excellent assessments and treatments for many orthopedic injuries and conditions. We have on-site imaging capabilities and also provide stabilization of acute injuries with durable medical equipment and patient education appropriate to the injury.
If your condition is complex, we can refer you to area orthopedic specialists for follow-up assessment and care. And we are available to help seven days a week, 365 days a year. Just come to our clinic, and we will triage your condition and get you assessed right away.
We look forward to serving you!