Orthopedics is the medical specialty devoted to the diagnosis, treatment, rehabilitation and prevention of injuries and diseases of your body's musculoskeletal system. This complex system includes your bones, joints, ligaments, tendons, muscles and nerves and allows you to move, work and be active.
Once devoted to the care of children with spine and limb deformities, orthopedics now cares for patients of all ages, from newborns with clubfeet to young athletes requiring arthroscopic surgery to older people with arthritis. And anybody can break a bone.
Your orthopedist manages special problems of the many regions of the musculoskeletal system.
Your orthopedist is 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.
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.
Your orthopedic surgeon is a medical doctor with extensive training in the proper diagnosis and treatment of injuries and diseases of the musculoskeletal system. Your orthopedist completed up to 14 years of formal education.
Four years of study in a college or university
Four years of study in medical school
Five years of study in orthopedic residency at a major medical center
One optional year of specialized education
After establishing a licensed practice, your orthopedic surgeon demonstrated mastery of orthopedic knowledge by passing both oral and written examinations given by the American Board of Orthopedic Surgery.
Each year your orthopedist spends many hours studying and attending continuing medical education courses to maintain current orthopedic knowledge and skills.
Orthopedic patients have benefitted 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.
This brochure has been prepared by the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons and is intended to contain current information on the subject from recognized authorities. However, it does not represent official policy of the Academy and its text should not be construed as excluding other acceptable viewpoints.
Online General Orthopedic Resources
Pediatric Orthopaedic Society of North America
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
Scoliosis Research Society
Orthopedic General Orthopedic Resources