The Basics of Orthopedics

Orthopedics is generally the study of the musculoskeletal system, which includes bones, joints, muscles, and nerves. The word is derived from the Greek words “ortho” meaning “straight” and “pais” meaning child, because orthopedics was originally developed to treat children with crippling diseases. Today, however, orthopedic surgeons treat patients of all ages and for many different reasons.

What Do Orthopedic Physicians Do?

While orthopedic study is a specialty for medical students, it is still a very broad spectrum that covers a variety of ailments and injuries. Some specific branches of orthopedic care include treating arthritis, rheumotology, joint replacement, back and spine surgery, hip or shoulder injuries and replacement, pain management, sports therapy, foot and ankle surgery, and even physical and occupational therapy. Primary physicians will usually refer patients to an orthopedic surgeon if there is an injury to a muscle or bone from a trauma, repeated motion, or arthritic and rheumatic problems that are causing chronic pain. Physicians who specialize in any area of orthopedic care usually can expect to study the practice for about fourteen years before becoming certified. For this reason, orthopedics is considered a highly-trained specialty in the medical field.

How Do I Know if I Need an Orthopedic Physician?

Most patients who see an orthopedic physician are referred by the primary care doctor. Depending on insurance plans, it is possible to see an orthopedic specialist without a referral, however. With 28 million Americans who develop a musculoskeletal problem each year, visiting an orthopedic physician is becoming more likely for everyone. Many people believe that chronic pain caused by diseases such as arthritis can only be treated with medication, but the field of orthopedics says differently. These issues are often treated with physical therapy, exercise, nutrition changes, and other more holistic approaches. An orthopedic specialist will be able to diagnose the source of the pain and develop a specific treatment plan for each patient. They will assist with every stage of recovery as well, treating infections, broken bones, joint problems, sports injuries, congenital conditions, degenerative diseases, and even bone tumors. While surgery is a part of orthopedics, it is often a last resort, with other non-invasive treatment options the preferred choice.

When is Orthopedic Surgery Required?

The most common types of orthopedic surgeries performed include back surgery, and ankle, knee, shoulder, or hip replacements. An orthopedic surgeon may also perform arthroscopic procedures in order to better diagnose and treat chronic issues.