Ignoring joint pain now can create problems in the future
Ignoring pain is nothing new. It’s always been easier to overlook or shrug off the twinges and tweaks in our joints to avoid going to the trouble of seeing a doctor. If we rest or tough it out and move through the pain, we tell ourselves, it’ll go away on its own. And unfortunately, the pandemic has offered one more excuse not to go to the hospital for joint pain.
“There’s no question that the pandemic has hit our country very hard,” says Robert Delanois, M.D., F.A.A.O.S., a board-certified orthopedic surgeon who leads Orthopedic Care at Northwest Hospital. “The demand has been to socially distance and stay home as much as possible, especially for people at higher risk, like those who are older or have medical conditions. Those are the people we take care of—and they’ve been reluctant to seek care because of the pandemic.”
Of course, the problem is that pain is the body’s way of telling us that something is wrong. And often when we disregard that signal and don’t seek medical attention, the underlying problem just gets worse—perhaps eventually worsening to a point beyond remedy. That’s why physicians and surgeons like Dr. Delanois and his colleagues at Northwest Hospital, a worldwide leader in orthopedic care, are concerned about the local community and urging anyone who is experiencing joint, knee, or back pain to seek help as soon as possible.
“Every problem is a little different, but with a fracture or torn tendon, there can be significant harm in delaying treatment,” says Michael Wallace, M.D., board-certified orthopedic surgeon and Service Line Leader for the Orthopedic Department at Northwest Hospital. “A fracture could heal in the wrong position, and the same could happen with a torn tendon. Waiting could also compromise the outcome of any surgery. Things scar in place, muscles atrophy, and problems become harder to fix in the long run.”
“If you tear your meniscus, sure, it could wait,” says Wallace. “But if you’re not able to exercise or garden and you’re just putting it off and dealing with the pain, you’re losing precious time.”
Decreased mobility and a decreased ability to exercise can also indirectly impact a person’s health by exacerbating other conditions, like high blood pressure, obesity, heart disease, diabetes, depression, anxiety, and arthritis. Furthermore, with conditions like osteoarthritis, the function a person loses might be difficult or even impossible to get back if they wait too long to address it—especially if they are older.
Another reason why people should not put off a visit to the orthopedist? Hospitals and clinics have made it safe and convenient to do so.
First, at every stage of the pandemic, Northwest Hospital has gone above and beyond the Centers for Disease Control guidelines to ensure that members of their community are safe when they seek care. Even as they’ve worked to address COVID-19, they are still working to take care of everyone else in the community, too. Northwest Hospital has created separate access points and streamlined the flow of patients. They’ve limited the number of people accompanying patients and visitors to ensure enough room for social distancing. They’ve doubled down on cleaning and disinfecting facilities and equipment. And all personnel are checked for symptoms, tested, equipped with PPE (such as masks, gloves, and gowns), and have access to the vaccine.
Due to the pandemic, consultations and exams have also become more convenient with the emergence of telehealth. Northwest Hospital had always utilized the technology of virtual visits, but with more and more patients unable or unwilling to leave their homes, the hospital has increased its capacity to do everything from conducting initial exams and consultations to testing post-op range of motion through phones, laptops, and tablets, all from the comfort of patients’ living rooms. Telehealth is just one more way Northwest Hospital reaches out into the community.
The other important thing for patients to know is that the pandemic has not derailed Northwest Hospital’s commitment to providing cutting-edge orthopedic care. Northwest is still a national leader in procedures, such as off-table direct anterior hip replacements. It is ahead of the field in innovative programs, such as implementing protocols that minimize and eliminate the need for narcotics after surgery, and research into ways to use stem cells to promote healing. They bring all of this world class care home to their patients in the Baltimore area.
While Northwest Hospital is committed to the future of orthopedics, it is equally dedicated to ensuring that its patients can pursue their own futures, free of pain and immobility. And while the pandemic has impacted everyone and everything to some degree, COVID-19 has not prevented Northwest Hospital from taking care of joint pain—and patients shouldn’t let it stop them, either.
“We are all hoping that COVID-19 will be something of the past,” says Delanois. “But what we don’t want to do is stop living until that happens. We want our patients to pursue excellence in their lives. Our goal is for each of our patients to live their best life.”
To find out more about the orthopedic program at Northwest Hospital, click here or call 410-601-2663.