Orthopedics (or orthopaedics as it is sometimes written) is a branch of the medical profession that focuses in on problems that affect the musculoskeletal systems as well as the treatments that are designed to improve these conditions. This system of the body encompasses the muscles and bones, as well as the joints, nerves, ligaments and tendons.
When orthopedics first began it was used to study and treat children who suffered from disabilities. In fact the word is formed from two Greek words- “ortho” means straight while “pedia” or “paedia” means children. Today this field of medicine has widened its scope and now treats health conditions in children of any age, as well as adolescents and adults. Physicians who wish to work in this area must first finish medical school and then must complete a residency for a duration of five years. They then must complete an optional year for the specialty of their choosing.
Orthopedic physicians are specialists who take the training to become surgeons. They are able to diagnose a variety of health issues, as well as treat and manage these problems. Some common problems that they deal with on a routine basis include pain in the back, legs and feet, arthritis, osteoporosis, carpal tunnel syndrome, sports injuries and various other problems that affect the muscles and the skeletal system. They use a selection of methods to treat various health conditions. There are times when they may use a combination of methods. These methods include medication, rehabilitation, exercise and surgery.
It is the job of an orthopedist to perform surgery on his patients when no other form of treatment will improve the health of the patient. The types of surgeries that this type of medical specialist would conduct include nerve repair, disc repair and joint replacement. There are also pediatric orthopedic doctors who work with children only and who see patients who suffer from development conditions such as limb length discrepancy or scoliosis. It is also part of their job to treat individuals who have dislocated joints, sprains or broken bones.
If you have a problem that is related to one of your bones, nerves or muscles then it is very likely that your primary care physician will refer you to an orthopedist for more in-depth assessment and treatment. Orthopedic surgeons may choose a specialty within this branch of medicine to specialize in. Some choose to work with particular injuries such as trauma to a muscle or nerve or sports medicine while others narrow their focus on a particular area of the body such as the knee, hip, foot or ankle.
The surgical procedures done in this field are many. You may have heard people talking about joint replacement. This is when a damaged or arthritic joint is removed from the body and replaced with prosthesis. Many elderly people end up needing to have hip replacement surgery in order for them to be able to walk properly and without tremendous pain and discomfort. Another common one you may have heard of is soft tissue repair. This is when ligaments or tendons that have been torn are repaired and mended.