According to the United States Bone and Joint Initiative, musculoskeletal disorders affect more than one out of every two people in the US age 18 and over, and nearly three out of four people age 65 and over. The musculoskeletal system provides support, posture and stability, permits movement, protects vital organs and circulates blood throughout the body. With 206 bones and approximately 650 muscles in the adult body, dysfunction, pain, or injury is almost unavoidable. When these problems arise, seeking treatment from a physician who specializes in orthopedics is your best option.

What is Orthopedics?

Orthopedics is an area of medicine that focuses on the diagnosis, treatment, prevention, and rehabilitation of injuries and diseases within the musculoskeletal system. Physicians in this particular field are called orthopedists, or orthopedic surgeons—they concentrate on disorders and injuries of the bones, cartilage, muscles, tendons, ligaments, nerves, and other connective tissue.

The Role of the Orthopedist

Orthopedists use specialized medical, surgical, physical and rehabilitative methods to treat a large variety of acute and chronic conditions relating to the musculoskeletal system. They treat people of all ages, from newborn to the elderly, and handle everything from treating something as simple as a pulled muscle to performing a complicated procedure such as spinal surgery.

The following is a list of Conditions that are frequently treated by an orthopedist.

• Fractures and dislocations
• Infections
• Sprains and strains
• Torn ligaments
• Sciatica
• Joint problems
• Congenital conditions
• Degenerative conditions
• Bone tumors
• Bursitis
• Ruptured discs

The orthopedist works in both hospitals and specialized clinics and practices. They work closely with other healthcare providers, frequently serving as a consulting physician. Many orthopedists identify themselves as a general orthopedic surgeon. However, some may specialize in different areas such as pediatrics, trauma, sports medicine, reconstructive surgery, oncology, or specific parts of the body such as the knee and shoulder, for example.

Orthopedists also frequently perform various types of surgical procedures. These common procedures include:

• Soft tissue repair
• Fusion (arthrodesis) – bones are fused together using bone grafts to form a single solid bone in order to repair a spinal fracture or correct a spinal deformity
• Internal fixation – a surgical method that uses metal plates, pins or screws to hold the pieces of a broken bone together until it has healed
• Arthroscopy – a minimally invasive procedure that utilizes a specialized instrument called an arthroscope to visualize, diagnose and sometimes treat a problem within a joint
• Osteotomy – involves cutting, repositioning and correcting a bone deformity
• Partial or total joint replacement – a damaged or arthritic joint is removed or resurfaced and replaced with an artificial joint or implant

What is Sports Medicine?

Sports medicine is a subspecialty of orthopedic medicine that deals with the physical fitness, preventive care and treatment of amateur and professional athletes within the world of sports and exercise. This specialty also treats those with disabilities who are trying to increase their capabilities and mobility and those who have suffered an injury and are trying to regain full function.

Commonly treated conditions within this subspecialty include:

• Trauma and fractures
• Dislocations and separations
• Tendonitis
• Rotator cuff pain and injuries
• Nerve compression
• Arthritis
• Overuse injuries
• Torn cartilage
• Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury
• Medial collateral ligament (MCL) injury
• Posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) injury
• Turf toe
• Sprains and strains
• Tennis elbow

How Seeing an Orthopedist Who Specializes in Sports Medicine Can Help You

Orthopedic surgeons who specialize in sports medicine have been trained to treat all of the musculoskeletal structures that can be affected by training, sports activity, and exercise. They have advanced knowledge of physical conditioning, soft tissue biomechanics, performance and health, and field evaluation. Doctors in sports medicine also routinely advise injured athletes, help to coordinate medical and sports activity and provide education and counseling on injury prevention.

According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, approximately half of all orthopedic patients will require a surgical solution to heal injuries, improve function and ease pain. Non-surgical interventions include the use of orthotic devices and rehabilitative athletic equipment to control or limit movement to prevent and manage injuries.

Common surgical and non-surgical procedures frequently performed within the sports medicine subspecialty include:

• Shoulder, hip, knee and ankle arthroscopy
• Knee, hip, and shoulder replacement
• ACL reconstruction
• Internal fixation
• External fixation
• Reduction
• Arthroplasty
• Cartilage restoration
• Surgical and non-surgical fracture repair
• Tendon repair
• Rotator cuff repair
• Joint injections

What Should I Expect When Visiting With an Orthopedic Surgeon?

In general, a visit with an orthopedic surgeon will begin with a personal interview to gather your medical history and initiate a discussion regarding your current health status. They will then perform a physical examination and review any previous records or tests. If the doctor does not have everything they need to accurately diagnose your condition, they may order additional diagnostic tests such as an X-ray, CT scan, MRI, or blood tests. Some patients may have a condition that can have more than one form of treatment. Your doctor will discuss any and all treatment options with you to mutually determine the best treatment plan according to your health and lifestyle.