Orthopaedics is a branch of medicine that concerns the musculoskeletal system. More specifically, it deals with the correction of deformities and functional impairments of the bones and muscles, usually the extremities—such as the hands and feet—and the spine. We disclose some of the most common orthopaedic complaints as well as how to manage them.
Dislocation is a term used to describe a bone that has moved out of its correct position. Often, the bone is noticeably displaced and can be accompanied with symptoms of swelling and pain. The hip, shoulder, ankles, elbows and jaw are all common joints that can be affected by dislocation. It is usually caused by an unexpected or imbalanced impact—it is linked to high-impact sports, falls and accidents.
The course of treatment will depend on the severity of the condition and which joint has been dislocated. The main methods of treating dislocation include manipulation, which involves realigning the bone manually; immobilisation, a method that places the joint in a splint or cast to promote healing and recovery; and—in the most severe cases—surgery.
A fracture—or broken bone—can range in severity from being a minor, hairline fracture to a complete break. This is usually the result of a high-force impact or a minimal trauma injury. Fractures can also be a consequence of osteoporosis (weakened bones), bone cancer or osteogenesis imperfecta, a disease that can cause weak bones to break easily. Postmenopausal women are more prone to factures because their bone density dramatically decreases as a result of lowered oestrogen levels.
Treatment for fractures is determined on a case-by-case basis. Most will require a plaster cast to immobilise the bone. More complicated fractures may need surgery. Other types of fracture treatment may require a plate and screws or a rod to be fitted to keep the bone in place.
Arthritis is one of the leading causes of orthopaedic issues, with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis being the main culprits. Osteoarthritis is caused by the breaking down and inflammation of the protective cartilage at the ends of the bones. This causes growths to form, which may lead to pain and swelling in the affected area.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that causes the body’s immune system to attack healthy body tissue. Over time, joints can become severely damaged, as can the bones and nearby cartilage.
Various anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) can be prescribed to stop or slow the progression of these conditions. They can also ease pain and reduce inflammation to help sufferers live their life as normally as possible. More advanced cases will, unfortunately, require a more aggressive approach such as joint replacement or arthroscopy—the removal of inflamed joint tissue.
The goal of joint replacement is to remove any parts of the joint that are damaged or diseased and replace them with a prosthetic. This surgical procedure can reduce pain and improve mobility. Hip replacements—or total hip arthroplasty—are among the most common procedures in this category.
According to the NHS, about half of all hip fracture cases require a partial or complete hip replacement. This surgery is deemed necessary if the bone is significantly damaged or worn to the extent that movement is difficult. The procedure involves the fitting of a prosthetic hip that usually lasts up to 15 years. Other joints that can be replaced include the shoulders, fingers, ankles and elbows.