The medical field of orthopedics is one that emphasizes conditions and diseases affecting the musculoskeletal system. This body system includes your muscles, bones, tendons, ligaments, nerves, and joints.
Patients who see orthopedic doctors usually do so due to injuries or chronic conditions. These might include lower back pain or arthritis.
What Is It That Orthopedic Doctors Do?
Orthopedic doctors are sometimes also known as orthopedic surgeons. Their responsibilities might include:
- The diagnosis and treatment of conditions impacting the musculoskeletal system.
- Assisting patient rehabilitation to help them regain flexibility, strength, range of motion, and movement following surgery or an injury.
- Coming up with strategies to prevent injuries or prevent a chronic condition from getting worse.
Orthopedic doctors know about every part of your musculoskeletal system, but many of these professionals emphasize subspecialities. These can include trauma surgery, sports medicine, foot and ankle issues, shoulder and elbow matters, hands, hips and knees, and spinal concerns.
What Kinds of Conditions Are Treated by Orthopedic Doctors?
Many conditions are treated by these professionals, including:
- Bone cancer
- Bone fractures
- Joint and back pain
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- ACL tears
What Kinds of Procedures Do Orthopedic Doctors Do?
Based on the kinds of conditions their patients have, orthopedic doctors suggest various procedures and treatments. Some are nonsurgical, whereas others are surgical.
Nonsurgical treatments are also known as conservative treatments. Doctors prefer emphasizing these prior to actual surgery, and options can include:
- Physical Fitness: Specific stretches and exercises might help a patient improve or just maintain their range of motion, flexibility, and strength.
- Immobilization: Casts, splints, and braces might prevent extra strain in a particular area to help it heal.
- Lifestyle Adaptations: How a patient exercises, physical activity modifications, and dietary changes might prevent a condition or injury from further aggravation.
- Medication: Some medicines might relieve the symptoms associated with pain and swelling. They might include aspirin, ibuprofen, corticosteroids, and anti-inflammatories.
When nonsurgical options aren’t enough, surgical choices become possible. Orthopedic surgeons might perform:
- Fusion: This connects two bones together, often in neck or spine surgery, by grafting material with internal fixation.
- Internal Fixation: This places rods, plates, screws, or pins in place to hold a broken bone while it heals.
- Joint Replacement: This removes joint parts that are diseased or damaged. Examples include knee or hip replacement due to arthritis.
- Osteotomy: This kind of surgery cuts a portion of bone before repositioning it.
- Release Surgery: Useful for carpal tunnel syndrome, this surgery relieves pressure put on the median nerve.
- Soft Tissue Repair: This surgery repairs seriously damaged tendons, ligaments, and muscles.
When Should You See Orthopedic Doctors?
You might be in need of one of these specialists when you have:
- Swelling or pain in a muscle, joint, or bone that proves recurring, persistent, or unmanageable via at-home care.
- A serious decrease in your overall mobility or specific joint range of motion.
- Difficulty doing your regular activities every day.
- Nerve-associated issues, including tingling, numbness, or the pins-and-needles feelings in your extremities.
- Injuries to joints or bones.
Some orthopedists have to go through 14 years of training and education before they are certified. They might have to go through:
- Four years of college or university at the undergraduate level
- Four years of medical school
- Five years of residency emphasizing orthopedics
- One year of fellowship for a sub-specialization
Finding an Orthopedic Doctor
Your primary care physician is where to start. Depending on your local regulations and health insurance rules, you might need their referral to see a specialist.
Many conditions that orthopedic doctors treat are considered medically necessary. However, check your insurance or Medicare for specifics if you want to avoid paying out-of-pocket expenses for your diagnosis and treatment.
Medicare Parts A and B usually cover nonhospital healthcare considered medically necessary for certain conditions. Medicare Part C usually has more expansive benefits, but you still need to check with your carrier for details. Unfortunately, some people on both Medicare or Medicaid might have difficulty getting orthopedic care approved in a timely fashion.
Orthopedic surgeons are the medical professionals responsible for the diagnosis and treatment of conditions impacting joints, muscles, and bones. Their treatment options might include surgical options or conservative measures. They also assist patients with preventing current conditions from getting worse or rehabilitation or prior issues.