Playing sports, working out, going for a walk – all are good for your health. Yet all come with risk of injury. Just the business of living life – walking to your car, taking a shower, doing yard work – holds the potential for sprains, twists, breaks, aches, pains.

And when those things happen, many people head straight to the emergency room or urgent care, figuring a same-day appointment with an orthopedist must be as mythical as a unicorn. Let’s debunk that myth now.

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Dr. Phillip Mason

It is important to be seen in a hurry – so the impetus to get care ASAP is the right one. But, in many cases, it may be better to be seen by a specialist instead of a generalist. An orthopedist can guide your care beyond an initial screening visit. And if surgery is necessary, you’ll have a head start because you were first seen by an orthopedic surgeon – the same one, in most cases, who’ll perform your surgery.

“We’re a one-stop shop,” said Dr. Phillip Mason, an orthopedic surgeon at Novant Health Orthopedics & Sports Medicine in Winston-Salem. We can do X-rays and scans here in our office. They’re interpreted while you’re here, too. The only thing we can’t do is an MRI, and that’s because it requires prior insurance approval. Once you’ve been diagnosed, we can also treat you here. That may mean an injection, a cast, a brace – or it could mean we schedule surgery.”

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Once you’ve been diagnosed, we can also treat you here. That may mean an injection, a cast, a brace – or it could mean we schedule surgery.”

Mason tries to see anyone who’s in pain if they need a same-day appointment. “It doesn’t necessarily have to be a sprain, fracture or dislocation,” he said. “If I have a patient with arthritis who needs to be seen, I’m going to try to work them in.”

And, Mason noted, across Novant Health, the Orthopedics and Sports Medicine Institute offers same-day appointments and walk-in care. Patients can book same-day appointments and communicate directly with their doctor or other provider through MyChart. If the schedule appears full, call. Even if it’s late in the day or the schedule is full, clinic staff will do all they can to accommodate you.

How to know when to go

There are times when a trip to urgent care is advised. If an injury appears to be life-threatening, an emergency room is best-suited for that. And after-hours injuries should be seen as soon as possible – and that means getting to the ER or urgent care. But twists and sprains, joint pain, fractures, arthritis – those are the types of injuries orthopedists see all day, every day.

“We’ve got the equipment here,” Mason said. “And we’ve got the knowledge base. Any of us in health care aim to take good care of our patients, and ERs and urgent cares offer a crucial service. But an ortho injury should ideally be examined by a specialist rather than a generalist. In most cases when you go to the ER with an orthopedic injury, you’re going to need follow-up care with an orthopedist, anyway.” So, why not start there?

COVID precautions

COVID-19 has made a lot of people reluctant to go to the doctor for routine care. Some people are even putting off urgent care. That’s a mistake. Waiting could allow an injury to worsen and complicate or prolong healing time.

Novant Health team has been taking extra precautions since the beginning of the pandemic. Facilities are disinfected throughout the day. Everyone – patients and staff – is screened for fevers as they enter a building or office. Learn more about our safety protocols.

Accidents happen. And when they do, it’s important to seek the right kind of care. Before heading to the ER, consider making a same-day appointment with an orthopedist. It’s easier to get than you may think.