Orthopedics is a medical specialty dedicated to the diagnosis and treatment of injuries and conditions of the musculoskeletal system. The musculoskeletal system is comprised of the vast and complex network of joints, bones, tendons, ligaments, nerves, and muscles that allow us to move and go about our daily activities. Orthopedic doctors originally focused on treating children with limb and spine deformities. Today, these doctors treat patients of all ages with a variety of conditions ranging from broken bones to arthritis.
Although orthopedic doctors are educated and trained to treat and manage conditions involving all aspects of the musculoskeletal system, many orthopedists prefer to specialize in specific areas, such as:
• Sports medicine
• Spine and limb deformities in children
• Traumatic injuries
Orthopedic doctors may also limit their practice to certain areas of the body, such as the foot, ankle, hip, or knee.
Education and Training of Orthopedic Doctors
Orthopedic surgeons have up to 14 years of formal training and education. This includes:
• Four years of undergraduate study at a college or university
• Four years of medical school
• Five years as an orthopedic resident at a major medical center
Some orthopedic doctors undergo an additional year of specialized education. After completing their studies and training, orthopedic doctors must demonstrate their mastery of the field by passing oral and written exams administered by the American Board of Orthopedic Surgery. To maintain their credentials, orthopedists must also complete the required number of hours of continuing medical education in their field each year. This ensures that they keep up-to-date in the latest information and treatment methodologies.
Treatments Offered by Orthopedic Doctors
Orthopedic surgeons help their patients manage their conditions using a variety of techniques, including:
• Medication aimed at controlling pain or slowing the progression of a condition
• Exercise and physical therapy to restore strength, function, and movement
• Surgery to repair or correct the underlying condition—Some of the most common orthopedic procedures include arthroscopy, fusion, joint replacement, soft tissue repair, internal fixation to rejoin broken bones, and osteotomy to correct bone deformity.
The goal of orthopedic treatment is to help patients of all ages to enjoy an active and fully functional life.