It is not uncommon to have aches and pains from a fall and, months later, to seek medical attention. Depending on the injury, delay in treatment can leave your options limited or more invasive. During the coronavirus pandemic, the risk of delay is far greater as many patients are worried about seeing their doctor and being exposed to COVID-19. It is critical to call your doctor because that ache or pain may be something worrisome. It is important to note that this list is not exhaustive. Any pain new or old is a sign that something is wrong and should be evaluated by a licensed physician.
Pain after a fall
The most crucial finding stemming from a fall is a fracture, a break in one of your bones, or a dislocation, loss of alignment of one of your joints. Early identification and treatment of fractures and dislocations will improve your likelihood of recovery. Even small fractures can have the potential to cause disability and persistent pain. Other potential causes of pain could be an infection, ligament sprain, tendon tear, and more. Never ignore persistent pain after a fall or injury. Pain that makes walking and weight bearing difficult or impossible should be evaluated immediately.
For example, wrist pain can be cause by repetitive activities, tendonitis, ganglion cysts, and more. Wrist pain after a fall can be a sign of a fracture. Tenderness at the base of the thumb "the anatomic snuffbox" can be due to a fracture of the scaphoid bone. These fractures require urgent medical attention. While many scaphoid fractures can be treated non-operatively with casting, it is important to identify these early as delayed treatment can cause a failure of healing or abnormal healing with deformity necessitating surgery. Scaphoid fractures can be identified on xray or advanced imaging such as an MRI. The only way to know for sure is to seek the advice of a physician.
Pain at night.
Pain that wakes you up from sleep is often times a sign of a serious problem. Often times this can be due to a pinched nerve in the wrist called carpal tunnel syndrome. In the shoulder it could be a sign of a rotator cuff tear. In other cases, problems with the joints can cause night pain such as osteoarthritis, shoulder labrum tears, and more. Pain with numbness or weakness should never be ignored.
Pain with activity.
Sometimes pain can make day to day tasks difficult or impossible to perform. Pain associated with popping or clicking in the knee, a sensation of weakness or "giving way," or with restricted range of motion can be a sign of a ligament tear such an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), posterior cruciate ligment (PCL), or medial collateral ligament tear. These injuries require urgent orthopedic evaluation as there are some studies that suggest that untreated ligament tears of the knee can lead to early arthritis. Ankle pain particularly when bearing weight and walking can be a sign of an ankle sprain or even a fracture. Hip pain with running can be indicative of a labral tear.
Pain with loss of movement in a joint should never be ignored. Restricted range of motion that is asymmetric is concerning. Loss of knee extension could be due to a quadriceps tendon or patellar tendon tear which requires prompt surgical attention.
- tendon tears
- joint injuries
Pain with swelling.
Pain with swelling should not be ignored. Pain associated with knee swelling could be due to a meniscus injury, a ligament tear, or even a fracture. In other cases pain with swelling can be due to an infection or even a tumor. Do not ignore pain with swelling or fever as infections should be evalutated immediately.
When to see a Doctor:
As mentioned above, this list is by no means exhaustive. Any new or old pain should be evaluated by a licensed medical professional. While it may seem that your pain may go away on its own, it may be due to a problem that needs urgent attention. Call your doctor to make an appointment today. If you are concerned about COVID-19, call for a virtual telehealth visit. Your doctor will be able to tell you right away if you need to come in.
The content of this blog represents educational material and not medical advice. Please see your doctor if you require medical attention.