Orthopedics, or orthopedic services, is the medical specialty that involves the treatment of the musculoskeletal system, which is made up of your body’s bones, joints, ligaments, tendons, and muscles.
Any number of medical problems can affect the bones, joints, ligaments, tendons, and muscles.
Bone problems may include:
- Bone deformities
- Bone infections
- Bone tumors
- Need for amputation
- Nonunions and malunions
- Spinal deformities
Joint problems may include:
Common orthopedic-related diagnoses based on body part:
Ankle and foot:
- Foot and ankle deformities
- Hammer toe
- Heel pain
- Heel spurs
- Joint pain and arthritis
- Tarsal tunnel syndrome
Hand and wrist:
- Cartilage and meniscus injuries
- Dislocation of the kneecap (patella)
- Ligament sprains or tears (anterior cruciate, posterior cruciate, medial collateral, and lateral collateral ligament tears)
- Loose or foreign bodies
- Osgood-Schlatter disease
- Dislocation or separation
- Ligament sprains or tears
- Loose or foreign bodies
- Tennis or golfers elbow (epicondylitis
- Elbow stiffness or contractures
SERVICES AND TREATMENTS
Imaging procedures can help diagnose or even treat many orthopedic conditions. Your health care provider may order:
Sometimes, treatment involves injections of medicine into the painful area. This may involve:
- Corticosteroid injections into joints, tendons, and ligaments, and around the spine
- Hyaluronic acid injection to help relieve arthritis pain
Surgical procedures used in the treatment of orthopedics include:
- Arthroscopic surgeries
- Bunionectomy and hammer toe repair
- Cartilage repair or resurfacing procedures
- Cartilage surgery to knee
- Fracture care
- Joint replacement (arthroplasty)
- Ligament reconstructions
- Repair of torn ligaments and tendons
- Spine surgery, including diskectomy, foraminotomy, laminectomy, and spinal fusion
Newer orthopedic services procedures include minimally invasive surgery techniques, advanced external fixation, and the use of bone graft substitutes and bone-fusing protein.
WHO IS INVOLVED
Orthopedic care often involves a team approach. Your team may include a doctor, as well as a non-doctor specialist such as a physical therapist, as well as others.
- Orthopedic surgeons receive 5 or more extra years of training in the care of disorders of the bones, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. They are trained to manage joint problems with both operative and non-operative techniques.
- Physical medicine and rehabilitation doctors have 4 or more extra years of training in this type of care after they graduate from medical school. They are also referred to as physiatrists. They do not perform surgery, although they can give joint injections.
- Sports medicine physicians are doctors with experience in sports medicine who have a primary specialty in family practice, internal medicine, emergency medicine, pediatrics, or physical medicine and rehabilitation. Most have 1-2 years of additional training in sports medicine through subspecialty programs in sports medicine. Sports medicine is a special branch of orthopedics designed to provide complete medical care to active people of all ages.
Other doctors that may be a part of the orthopedics team include:
- Pain specialists
- Primary care doctors
Non-doctor health professionals that may be a part of the orthopedics team include:
- Athletic trainers
- Nurse practitioners
- Physical therapists
- Physician assistants
- Social workers
- Vocational workers
Canale ST, Beaty JH, eds. Campbell's Operative Orthopaedics. 11th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Mosby; 2007.
Silverstein JA, Moeller JL, Hutchinson MR. Common issues in orthopedics. In: Rakel RE, ed. Textbook of Family Medicine. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 30.
Musculoskeletal disorders. In:Frontera, WR, Silver JK, Rizzo TD Jr, eds. Essentials of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2008:chap 1-88.
C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Assistant Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, San Francisco, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.