Whom to See First? General Physician or Specialist?

Whom to See First? General Physician or Specialist?November 2021

When an injury or illness becomes more than something that needs an aspirin or a band-aid, the natural course of action is to go to a doctor for treatment. The question that often arises is what type of doctor. Do you go to your primary care physician or to a specialist? People often fear being labeled as hypochondriacs and so try to avoid going to the doctor. When they do go, they hesitate about going to a specialist because they do not want to appear to be making a big deal over a minor health issue. For example, for joint pain do you go to an orthopedician? For a rash, do you go to a skin doctor or wherever you may live? If your health package check-up shows you to be in good health, can you avoid going to the doctor when you are unwell? Knowing when to go to a doctor is important. Knowing which type of doctor to go to is even more critical.

Primary Care or Specialist?

General Physician or Orthopedician?

Let us use the example of a joint problem. A general/primary care physician is a medical professional who is trained in internal medicine and is the primary point of contact for a patient. The primary care doctor plays a crucial role in preventive healthcare and when a medical condition requires specialized treatment, he knows what type of specialist you should be referred to. Medicine is a huge field and no one doctor can be an expert in all aspects of it. When a condition requires specialized treatment, it must be given by a specialist.

When Should You Go to an Orthopedician?

If you have the following:

  • Chronic, repetitive muscle, bone, joint, or ligament pain or problems
  • An injury that results in muscle, bone, joint or ligament pain
  • A medical condition where orthopedic problems are a known complication
  • Suffered a similar problem in the past and it was treated by an orthopedic specialist
  • Been advised by your primary healthcare provider to go to a specialist

Then you should not delay and contact an orthopedic doctor.

The signs that you should contact an orthopedician include, but are not limited to:

  • A soft tissue injury that has not healed in 2 days or which continues to become worse
  • Chronic pain in the bones and joints, especially in the back, neck, shoulder, elbow, hip, knee and ankle
  • Stiffness or reduced movement and flexibility of a joint
  • Movement limitations that prevent you from doing everyday tasks

Going to an orthopedician is not a sign of weakness. It is a sign of maturity that you accept that you may have a condition that requires specialized treatment and are going to where you will get it. The sooner you go to an orthopedic specialist, the sooner your treatment and recovery will begin.


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