Orthopaedics 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, orthopaedics 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 orthopaedist
Your orthopaedist manages special problems of the many regions of the musculoskeletal system. Your orthopaedist 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 orthopaedists practice general orthopaedics, some may specialize in treating the foot, hand, shoulder, spine, hip, knee, and others in pediatrics, trauma or sports medicine. Some orthopaedists may specialize in several areas.

Your orthopaedic surgeon is a medical doctor with extensive training in the proper diagnosis and treatment of injuries and diseases of the musculoskeletal system. Your orthopaedist 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 orthopaedic residency at a major medical center

  • One optional year of specialized education

After establishing a licensed practice, your orthopaedic surgeon demonstrated mastery of orthopaedic knowledge by passing both oral and written examinations given by the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery.

Each year your orthopaedist spends many hours studying and attending continuing medical education courses to maintain current orthopaedic knowledge and skills.

Orthopaedic patients have benefited from technological advances such as joint replacement and the arthroscope that allows the orthopaedist 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 orthopaedic diseases and injuries there is more than one form of treatment. Your orthopaedist 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.


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Up to 32.9 million American adults reported being told by a physician that they have some type of arthritis. It is a major cause of lost work time and serious disability for many people. Although arthritis is mainly a disease of adults, children may also have it.

The most common type of arthritis is osteoarthritis. It is seen in many people as they age, although it may begin when they are younger as a result of injury or overuse. It is often more painful in weight bearing joints such as the knee, hip, and spine than in the wrist, elbow, and shoulder joints. All joints may be more affected if they are used extensively in work or sports, or if they have been damaged from fractures or other injuries.

Making a diagnosis of arthritis often includes evaluating symptoms, a physical examination, and X-rays, which are important to show the extent of damage to the joint. Blood tests and other laboratory tests may help to determine the type of arthritis.

The goals of treatment are to provide pain relief, increase motion, and improve strength.



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