Many people visit their doctor each year because of skeletal or muscular pain. Patients of all ages can experience conditions from backaches and arthritis to joint disorders and sports injuries. While your family doctor is often the first point of contact, some of these conditions may require the attention of an orthopedic surgeon. Do you find yourself asking, “What is an orthopedic surgeon?” Allow us to provide an insight into the role of this essential healthcare specialist.
An orthopedic surgeon is a doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of the musculoskeletal system. In other words, they work with bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments, and joints. All these tissues function together to help your body move freely throughout your lifetime.
A healthy musculoskeletal system is critical to overall health and wellness. It includes the feet, ankles, knees, hips, hands, wrists, shoulders, elbows, back, and neck. If any one of these is even slightly injured, it can significantly affect one’s quality of life. Unfortunately, we tend to engage all these systems for hours at a time, and they can easily be impacted by daily activities.
Orthopedic surgeons can often find the main source of muscular and skeletal pain. Getting to the root cause of these symptoms allows them to take a targeted approach to treatment. In some cases, they’ll recommend that their patient receives surgery. However, this is often a last resort for most patients after first trying other therapies. Instead, initial therapy may be a less-invasive intervention such as rest, medication, lifestyle changes, or physical exercise.
An orthopedic surgeon may be either a generalist or a specialist in specific systems. Regardless, they must complete rigorous training and education to become experts in their particular field. They generally complete medical school followed by at least a five-year medical residency. Highly successful orthopedic surgeons also maintain their proficiency over the years. They do this by staying up to date with effective treatments, engaging in continuous education, and contributing to the publication of primary scientific research.
When to Visit an Orthopedic Surgeon
Fortunately, this isn’t a decision you’ll usually have to make alone. Most patients are referred to an orthopedic surgeon by their primary care physician. There are several reasons why your physician may choose to make this type of referral.
Orthopedic surgeons treat a wide variety of muscular and skeletal conditions. These include chronic joint pain, abrupt injuries like torn ligaments, club foot, and ruptured discs. However, the most common reason patients seek aid from an orthopedic surgeon is because of persistent pain. Every physician’s definition of persistent is different, but it generally refers to pain lasting more than three months. Issues with hips and knees are other common reasons why physicians refer to orthopedic surgeons, as are severe arthritis and persistent soft tissue injuries.
Physicians often refer patients for total knee and hip replacements, surgical fusions, treatment of fractures from osteoporosis, as well as tendon and ligament repair. Sometimes, debilitating or treatment-resistant pain also calls for an orthopedic referral. Other times, a physician may simply consult an orthopedic surgeon to confirm a diagnosis with an expert examination. If you’re experiencing chronic pain or a decreased range of motion, an orthopedic surgeon can most likely help with your symptoms.
Orthopedic surgeons are critical specialists within the healthcare industry. These highly trained and qualified doctors examine, diagnose, and treat a wide range of major and minor musculoskeletal conditions. Many physicians refer their patients to orthopedic surgeons for specialized care after exhausting other treatment options. If you’re experiencing chronic or debilitating pain, consider speaking with your general practitioner about the benefits of seeing a specialist. We encourage you to contact us with any further questions you may have about orthopedics.