What are the Most Common Orthopedic Problems?

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  • Written By: Deborah Walker
  • Edited By: R. Halprin
  • Last Modified Date: 10 July 2019
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The most common orthopedic problems often vary with age. Children and teenagers may develop growing pains, overuse injuries, scoliosis, and broken bones. The majority of adults experience back pain at some point in their lives caused by muscle strain and disc or spine disease. Osteoarthritis, or wear-and-tear arthritis, is another orthopedic problem that may begin in middle age and become progressively worse over the years. The treatment for orthopedic problems ranges from pain relievers and rest to surgical intervention.

The bones and cartilage of children and adolescents are still growing, which sets the stage for certain orthopedic problems. Many youth experience pain during growth spurts. Growing pains occur because bone growth outpaces that of muscles and ligaments, which become overstretched. Treatment may include pain relievers, massage, stretching, and a warm heating pad.

Overuse injuries, or muscle strains, are orthopedic problems often seen in children who participate in sports. Immature and growing bones, as well as performing training exercises incorrectly, improper shoes, or hard playing surfaces can all contribute to muscle strain. Shin splints, or pain along the inner tibial border of the lower leg, is one type of overuse injury. Rest, ice, and analgesics or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication is the usual course of treatment. Severe muscle strain may require crutches or a brace until the injury has healed.


Scoliosis is another common orthopedic problem among older children and teens. The normal spine is relative straight; in scoliosis, however, the spine has an s- or c-shaped curvature. The exact cause of scoliosis is unknown. This condition tends to worsen during growth spurts. It may be treated surgically or with a special brace.

Children may fracture their clavicles or humerus bones. The most common cause is falling on outstretched arms. Clavicle fractures are usually treated non-surgically with a sling to immobilize the injury and x-ray monitoring over several weeks. Humeral fractures also require immobilization with a leg brace or cast. Pain relievers may be taken if necessary.

The primary orthopedic problems in adults include lower back pain and osteoarthritis. Low back pain may be caused by muscle strain due to improper lifting. It may also be caused by spinal degeneration. One type of spinal degeneration occurs in vertebral discs. Damaged discs, with or without herniation, may cause pain if the nerve root is compressed. Treatment may include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication, weight loss, and sometimes surgery.

Normal cartilage acts as a buffer between two joints. As cartilage is damaged, the bones begin to scrape each other, causing the inflammation, pain and stiffness of osteoarthritis. Almost all adults have some form of osteoarthritis by age 70. According to the Arthritis Foundation, the hips, hands, knees, low back, and neck are most affected by osteoarthritis. Treatments range from over-the-counter analgesics and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories to cortisone injections, weight loss, or other lifestyle changes.


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