What Is An Orthopedic Doctor? What Can They Treat?
When it comes to treating common illnesses and managing your overall health, your primary care physician should be the first stop on the road to wellness. But if you’re experiencing chronic lower back pain, joint pain and stiffness, or unexplained muscle weakness, an orthopedic doctor may be the best bet!
Here at OrthoSouth, our goal is to redefine how we deliver orthopedic care and create a holistic service experience for our Mid-South patients. We offer onsite physical therapy and occupational rehabilitation services, advanced digital imaging, regenerative medicine, joint replacement, and many other services as part of our orthopedic patient care program. But what is an orthopedic doctor? What do orthopedic doctors treat? We’ll answer these questions below, so keep reading to learn more!
What is an orthopedic doctor?
Put simply, an orthopedist is a specialist who has been trained to diagnose and treat any disease or injury that occurs within the musculoskeletal system. That includes the muscles, tendons, ligaments, nerves, bones, and joints. Orthopedists are also known as orthopedic surgeons, although they often use nonsurgical methods to help patients find relief from pain and mobility problems.
Orthopedists spend up to fourteen years in medical training, which may include traditional medical school resulting in a doctor of medicine degree (MD) or osteopathic education, leading to a doctor of osteopathy degree (DO.) This is followed by an orthopedic residency, providing doctors with hands-on learning in a medical setting over a five-year period. Orthopedics is a vast field, so most orthopedic doctors specialize in a particular type of orthopedics. Orthopedists who wish to subspecialize will round out their training with a one- or two-year fellowship.
An orthopedist is qualified to diagnose orthopedic problems, perform or prescribe treatments, and assist with rehabilitation. They also work with patients to develop long-term strategies to treat illnesses, disorders, and issues relating to the bones, joints, ligaments, tendons, and muscles. We’ll discuss some of the most common complaints orthopedic doctors deal with below.
Joints connect the bones, helping to support them and enabling smooth movement whenever you twist, bend, sit, jump, walk, or run. When joints become injured or worn out over time, it can cause pain, swelling, and inflammation. It may also result in the loss of normal movement.
Joint pain is very common, especially in mobile or load-bearing joints like the shoulders, hips, knees, and spine. The leading cause of joint pain is arthritis, a condition that occurs when the protective cartilage that covers the ends of the joints wears away. Arthritis causes degenerative damage that affects the entire joint, from the bones and cartilage to the connective soft tissues. This type of damage can have a significant impact on a patient’s mobility and quality of life as it progresses.
While acute joint pain from an injury usually resolves on its own within a few weeks, an orthopedist may be recommended if the pain has been consistent for several months. When joint pain is accompanied by morning stiffness, swelling, tenderness, or loss of a joint’s range of motion, an orthopedic doctor may examine the patient for arthritis.
Neck and back pain
Most of us have experienced neck or back pain at some point in our lives and know all too well that even a minor backache can make it difficult to move without pain. In fact, back pain is one of the leading reasons for people calling out of work! There are many possible causes for this type of pain, including:
- strained soft tissues
- herniated discs
- degenerative disc disease
- spinal stenosis
If left untreated, any of these conditions can lead to chronic pain and the accompanying symptoms. Patients who are living with severe neck or back pain, decreased movement, or pain that’s accompanied by numbness or weakness are often referred to an orthopedic doctor for an evaluation.
Sports can be a great way to get the body moving, but they sometimes lead to painful injuries that happen when a patient experiences a high-impact collision, direct blow, or repetitive movement stress caused by improper form or repetitive movement. Common sports injuries include:
- tendon inflammation
- ligament tears
- rotator cuff tears
Sports injuries should never be ignored. Leaving an injury untreated or jumping back in before it’s fully healed can turn an acute problem into a chronic one. Seeing an orthopedic doctor for sports injuries gives patients the care and treatment they need to get back in the game as soon as possible!
Rehabilitation and recovery
An orthopedist won’t just hand patients a diagnosis and leave them to deal with it. For example, once our doctors get to the root of a problem, they will create a customized treatment plan that allows the patient to rehabilitate and recover. Orthopedic doctors use a variety of non-surgical and surgical treatment tools to help relieve symptoms and reduce pain. Some common treatments include:
- pain management
- physical therapy
- occupational therapy
- weight management
- lifestyle changes
- surgery for certain cases
These treatments are designed to help patients regain their strength, flexibility, range of motion, and endurance following an acute injury, fracture, or surgery. They are also useful for reducing pain and preserving mobility, which can slow the progression of chronic conditions. Most orthopedic doctors will recommend specific exercises, stretches, and strategies to prevent future injuries from occurring.
Although there are many non-surgical treatments available, there may be times when surgery is recommended by an orthopedic doctor. Fortunately, modern methods mean not all surgeries are long invasive ordeals requiring hospitalization! For instance, someone with a severely torn ligament or tendon may be a good candidate for minimally invasive arthroscopy. Some patients who have a herniated spinal disc or spinal stenosis may qualify for minimally invasive spine surgery to relieve pressure in the spine. These procedures require smaller incisions and cause less soft tissue damage. Many are also available to be performed on an outpatient basis.
Feel your best again with comprehensive care from the OrthoSouth experts
At OrthoSouth, we’re proud to offer Mid-South patients treatment for a wide range of soft tissue, spine, bone, and joint conditions and injuries. Whether you’re suffering from an acute injury or chronic pain, our expert team of orthopedic doctors will help relieve your pain and get you back to doing all the things you love! To learn more about our services, get in touch today and schedule a consultation with one of our many convenient locations.