Orthopaedics is the medical specialty that focuses on injuries and diseases of your body's musculoskeletal system. This complex system, which includes your bones, joints, ligaments, tendons, muscles, and nerves, allows you to move, work, and be active.
Orthopedists use medical, physical and rehabilitative methods as well as surgery and are involved in all aspects of heath care pertaining to the musculoskeletal system. It is a specialty of incredible breadth and variety. Orthopedists treat a immense variety of diseases and conditions, including fractures and dislocations, torn ligaments, sprains and strains tendon injuries, pulled muscles and bursitis ruptured disks, sciatica, low back pain, and scoliosis knock knees, bow legs, bunions and hammer toes, arthritis and osteoporosis, bone tumors, muscular dystrophy and cerebral palsy, club foot and unequal leg length abnormalities of the fingers and toes, and growth abnormalities.
In general, orthopedists are skilled in the:
Diagnosis of your injury or disorder
Treatment with medication, exercise, surgery or other treatment plans
Rehabilitation by recommending exercises or physical therapy to restore movement, strength and function
Prevention with information and treatment plans to prevent injury or slow the progression of diseases
Typically, as much as 50 percent of the orthopedist’s practice is devoted to non-surgical or medical management of injuries or disease and 50 percent to surgical management. Surgery may be needed to restore function lost as a result of injury or disease of bones, joint, muscles, tendons, ligaments, nerves or skin.
The orthopedist also works closely with other health care professionals and often serves as a consultant to other physicians. Orthopedists are members of the teams that manage complex, multi-system trauma, and often play an important role in the organization and delivery of emergency care.
A field known for innovation
Like other branches of medicine, remarkable technological advances have significantly shaped the field of orthopedics in recent years.
Arthroscopy - the application of visualizing instruments to assist in the diagnosis and surgical treatment of internal joint diseases - has opened new horizons of therapy
Exciting cellular research may enable orthopedic surgeons to stimulate the growth of ligaments and bone in patients someday in the future
Great advances have occurred in the surgical management of degenerative joint disease. For example, orthopedic surgeons can replace a diseased joint with a prosthetic device (total joint replacement)
Research is progressing on "growing" articular cartilage in joints, which may one day reduce the need for some people to get joint replacements
While most orthopedists practice general orthopedics, some may specialize in treating the foot, hand, shoulder, spine, hip, knee, and others in pediatrics, trauma or sports medicine. Some orthopedists may specialize in several areas.
Orthopedic patients have benefited from technological advances such as joint replacement, and the arthroscope that allows the orthopedist to look inside a joint. But your visit will start with a personal interview and physical examination. This may be followed by diagnostic tests such as blood tests, X-rays, or other tests.
Your treatment may involve medical counseling, medications, casts, splints, and therapies such as exercise, or surgery. For most orthopedic diseases and injuries, there is more than one form of treatment. Your orthopedist will discuss the treatment options with you and help you select the best treatment plan to enable you to live an active and functional life.