Do I Need a Referral To See an Orthopedic Doctor?
 Do I Need a Referral To See an Orthopedic Doctor?

Need a Referral for Orthopedic Doctor?

If you’re wondering, “do you need a referral for an orthopedic doctor?”, then you’ve come to the right place. Understanding specialists and healthcare can be overwhelming, so we’ll help you navigate one branch of specialists and how to get a referral to orthopaedic doctors. 

What is an Orthopedic Specialist? 

Let’s first narrow down what an orthopedic specialist is, before determining the answer to “do you need a referral to see an orthopedic doctor?”. An orthopedic specialist treats the musculoskeletal system, which includes everything from your muscles to bones, joints, tendons and ligaments. They treat injuries, infections, arthritis, osteoporosis, bone tumors, and more. They work in both hospitals and private practices. 

Orthopedic specialists can often be specialized in a particular area of the body, such as the shoulders or hands. Some focus on specific practices, such as pediatrics or sports medicine.

Do I Need a Referral For an Orthopedic Doctor?

The answer is almost always yes, especially to be covered by insurance. You’ll need a referral from your primary care physician in order to visit an orthopedic specialist. But this shouldn’t be considered a hassle or inconvenience: after all, your primary doctor will be able to help you understand if and when specialists are needed, versus something they can help with themselves. 

After all, specialist appointments can take weeks (if not months) to occur, so your doctor can help you with treatment in the meantime.

What Can An Orthopedic Doctor Diagnose?


You’ve likely been referred to the orthopedic specialist if you’ve been experiencing bone, joint, or muscle pain that your primary doctor can’t treat. An orthopedic doctor typically diagnoses and treats arthritis, osteoporosis, tumors, pain, bursitis, and more. 

Signs You Need An Orthopedic Specialist

Knowing some indicators of when you should see an orthopedic specialist can help you take control of your health and advocate for yourself. 

These signs include:

  • An injury that has lasted more than 48 hours and isn’t improving
  • Pain or swelling in the joints and bones, especially in the knees, elbows, back or neck 
  • Pain from repetitive motions 
  • You’ve noticed less range of motion or stiffness 
  • Tingling or numbness in your hands 
  • You’re having trouble with normal, everyday tasks due to one of the above symptoms.
There can be many more signs that you need to visit an orthopedic specialist, but if you’re experiencing any symptoms that are unusual for you, speak to your primary doctor.

What to Expect At Your First Orthopedic Appointment

Visiting a specialist can be nerve-wracking, so we’ll break down exactly what you can expect at your first orthopedic doctor appointment to make it a little easier for you. You’ll want to be prepared for paperwork, which will include information on your medical history, your symptoms, insurance information, and more. 

You should also expect a comprehensive medical review with the specialist, because they’ll want to get a deeper understanding of your overall health. This can include:

  • Verbal and physical evaluation
  • Diagnostic imaging (x-rays and/or MRIs)
  • Physical tests (eg. bloodwork)

These are important to help them best diagnose and treat you. Knowing your history and having any relevant records with you will help. You may also want to dress for the evaluation; for example if you’re having knee pain, you may want to wear shorts. 

You may not receive a diagnosis or plan of treatment in your first visit, so it’s important to prepare yourself for this. But once the specialist determines your diagnosis, you’ll be given a treatment plan (ideally non-surgical treatments like medication, exercise, and rehabilitation) and you will likely have follow-up visits. 

The Takeaway

Your primary or trusted family doctor should be your first step in the process if you suspect you may need an orthopedic specialist. They’ll be able to properly refer you, but maybe even help treat your concerns without the need for a specialist appointment. Either way, getting that referral is crucial for proper coverage and avoiding roadblocks in your health care. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe to our

***We Promise, no spam!

Canadian Doctors Connect with us Here

We’re always looking for the addition of devoted licensed Canadian family doctors to join our great team.