Most people will see an orthopedic surgeon at some point in their lives, and some people will see one often. Yet, there is often confusion about the exact conditions that orthopedic specialists treat. Orthopedic medicine treats the musculoskeletal system. Health care providers in this field of medicine specialize in the diagnosis, treatment, and therapy of conditions affecting the bones, joints, muscles, tendons, ligaments, cartilage, and nerves in patients of all ages, from newborns to the elderly.
The field of orthopedic medicine
The musculoskeletal system includes the body’s framework and the mechanisms that make it work. Although orthopedics focuses specifically on this system, the reality is that roughly all the medical specialty has some overlap with this specialty.
While some orthopedic surgeons undergo additional training to perform specialized types of surgeries, orthopedic surgeons in general spend the majority of their time treating patients outside of the operating room. Most orthopedic specialists have a busy office practice. Orthopedic surgeons also work in emergencies, take care of patients in hospital departments or on the sidelines of sporting events.
It takes about 10 years of schooling and post-graduate training to become an orthopedic surgeon, but it is a specialty in high demand. And even after more than a decade of training, many surgeons specialize more in orthopedics.
The Greek word ortho means “straight” and pedics comes from the word country, meaning “child”. For many centuries, orthopedic specialists have been involved in treating children with disabilities and conditions such as scoliosis.
Orthopedic problems are the most common reason people see a doctor, although not every patient with an orthopedic problem is seen by an orthopedic specialist.
About one-third of people in the United States have some type of musculoskeletal disorder, and that number is growing.Inasmuch asThe good news is that most of these conditions are treatable. In fact, some of the most effective medical treatments and surgical procedures are orthopedic.
Some of the many problems that fall under orthopedics include:
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Torn meniscus
- Hip fracture
- Back and neck pain
Your orthopedic diagnosis
Not everyone with shoulder pain has a rotator cuff tear, and not everyone with back pain has muscle strain. Although these problems can be among the most common causes of discomfort, if your condition is different the treatment may change.
The first step is to find an orthopedic surgeon who can help you diagnose the cause of your specific problem and point your treatment in the right direction.
Once you’ve received an orthopedic diagnosis, it’s important to find a practitioner who will take the time to explain all of your options and listen to your questions.
Take control of your treatment
The best way to manage your treatment is to educate yourself about the condition causing your symptoms. Many musculoskeletal conditions can be improved with proper conditioning and rehabilitation, but you must learn the right things to do for therapy.
Empowering yourself with this knowledge can make a big difference in your recovery.
Many common health conditions make managing orthopedic conditions much more difficult. Weight gain puts tremendous stress on joints, and injured or worn joints almost always feel worse in heavier people. Smoking slows bone healing and can make recovery after treatment less effective and longer.Inasmuch asInasmuch as
Maintaining your health can really make it easier to manage orthopedic issues.
Living with an orthopedic problem
While many orthopedic conditions can be treated and cured, some people have lifelong diagnoses. One of the most difficult aspects of managing an orthopedic condition is staying fit and healthy while you have a musculoskeletal problem. Exercise can be difficult and painful for people with bone and joint problems.
On a positive note, there are many ways to modify activity and new activities you can try that may not put as much stress on an injured joint, allowing you to stay active and fit. Remember that orthopedic conditions are almost always best managed by keeping body weight normal and maintaining strong musculature. There are exercises that you can perform even with painful joints.
Questions you should ask your healthcare provider
Always feel encouraged to ask your orthopedic surgeon questions. In fact, if he doesn’t have time to answer your questions, it may be a sign that you need to find another health care provider.
The best way to make sure you get all your questions answered is to write them down and bring them with you to your appointment. Also, be sure to write down or record the answers your healthcare provider gives you for future reference.
Another helpful way to make sure all your questions are answered is to have a health advocate. This can be a family member or close friend, or a professional social worker, but it should be someone who can go with you to appointments and help you talk in your name. Often, anxiety related to treatment or surgery can cloud your thinking. Having someone accompany you to appointments can help ensure there are no details.
A word from Verywell
Being diagnosed with an orthopedic condition can be overwhelming. However, most orthopedic conditions have effective treatments, and many people find complete resolution of their symptoms when they take the appropriate steps. Many orthopedic conditions, even if they occur suddenly, are the result of problems with the use of our body that have developed for a long time. Successful treatment can take time and effort, but the investment is worth it.