What Is an Orthopedic Doctor?

January 19th, 2023 Becki Andrus
What Is an Orthopedic Doctor?

Most people have heard the term “orthopedics,” but they are unsure if or when they need to see this type of doctor. And if orthopedic services are necessary, then where should you go to find a specialist?

This medical specialty is a valuable resource for patients experiencing joint or bone pain, which happens to most people at some point in their lives. Visiting an orthopedic doctor is a great way to identify the underlying condition, then an effective treatment plan can be designed and implemented. 

What Is an Orthopedic Doctor?

These doctors have completed medical school, then gained additional training and education to focus on the musculoskeletal system, specifically: the joints, nerves, bones, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. All of these parts are necessary for everyday movement and living.

Orthopedic issues are pretty common, so this specialty is in high demand. A variety of injuries and chronic conditions fall into the orthopedics category.

  • Broken bones
  • Back pain
  • Dislocated joints
  • Hip pain
  • Arthritis
  • Muscle sprains and strains
  • Torn ligaments
  • Tumors
  • Accidents and injuries
  • Age-related conditions
  • Chronic conditions

An orthopedic doctor is prepared to help patients with acute, degenerative, and chronic conditions. If you are experiencing any type of pain, discomfort, or limited motion relating to the musculoskeletal system, then an orthopedic doctor is the specialist you need to see.

Orthopedic Subspecialties

Often, orthopedic doctors sub-specialize in a specific treatment area. For example, if you are experiencing pain in your wrists and hands because of carpal tunnel syndrome, then there is a benefit to meeting with an orthopedic doctor who focuses on hand and wrist cases.

Or, if you have knee or hip pain, you can talk to a joint surgeon specializing in this part of the body. There are many different types of orthopedic subspecialties.

  • Knee
  • Hip
  • Hand and write
  • Foot and ankle
  • Neck
  • Back
  • Shoulder and Elbow

Meeting with a specialist means that you can expect next-level precision in the diagnostic and treatment implementation. Plus, the doctor’s in-depth knowledge about this part of the body gives them unique insights to help with prevention.

What to Expect from an Orthopedic Doctor

What types of services can you access through an orthopedic specialist? The diagnosis and treatment availability from these doctors typically fall within several categories.

  • Diagnosis: The primary focus, in the beginning, is to identify the underlying condition that is causing pain and discomfort. Orthopedic doctors gather information about your injury through a physical examination, as well as digital imaging and another diagnostic testing.
  • Injury Treatment: If an accident occurs that causes injury to the musculoskeletal system, then injury treatment is available from an orthopedic doctor. These specialists can help with many different types of treatments, including car accidents, sports injuries, and more.
  • Range of Motion Improvements: An orthopedic specialist is focused on minimizing pain and optimizing function as much as possible. When stiffness, pain, and swelling are present, it can take a toll on the range of motion – which makes it hard to complete daily tasks. The doctor will help to improve your range of motion, which has a positive impact on your lifestyle.
  • Chronic Conditions: Do you have a condition that is getting worse over time, such as an autoimmune or degenerative disease? An orthopedic doctor can help with pain management and lifestyle function. For example, patients with osteoporosis and arthritis often benefit from services offered by an orthopedic specialist.
  • Prevention: Finally, orthopedic doctors also focus on prevention. Overuse injuries are common in specific careers or athletic activities. An orthopedic doctor can provide recommendations to prevent pain and injury, such as physical therapy, training regimens, or protective equipment.

Full-Service Care from an Orthopedic Surgeon

Not all orthopedic doctors are surgeons. But all orthopedic surgeons are orthopedic doctors. If you meet with an orthopedic doctor or specialist, they are qualified and experienced in diagnosing, assessing, and treating your conditions using minimally-invasive treatments.

On the other hand, orthopedic surgeons are qualified to offer everything that an orthopedic specialist offers, as well as surgical interventions as needed.

One hesitation a patient might feel about talking with an orthopedic doctor is that many of these specialists are surgeons. As a result, you might be worried about consulting with a surgeon for fear that the doctor might be eager to recommend that you go “under the knife.”

While there are times when surgery is the best course of action, orthopedic doctors also offer a variety of other minimally-invasive treatments as well. At Orthopedic Associates, we always use minimally-invasive therapies first, with surgery being an option when the other treatments aren’t working.

Non-surgical treatments might include a variety of services.

  • Rest and recovery
  • Rehabilitation or physical therapy
  • Oral medications
  • Injection medications
  • Lifestyle adjustments

Visiting a Primary Care Provider vs. an Orthopedic Specialist

With any medical treatment, the first line of treatment is usually accessed through a primary care physician. This doctor partners with individuals and families to offer ongoing medical care. Not only do primary care physicians assist with illnesses and pain, but they are an excellent resource for preventive medical care as well.

But since primary care physicians are generalists, they don’t have the in-depth training or education you can access by meeting with a specialist.

Often, primary care physicians will provide basic medical care, then refer patients to specialists when the care needs extend beyond what the doctor can offer. For example, a primary care physician might prescribe pain medication for a back injury. But if the pain continues, then they will recommend that you talk to a back specialist.

You can talk to your primary care physician first to see if you need a referral. Or, there is an option to meet with an orthopedic doctor immediately. For example, if you are experiencing knee pain or a foot injury, it makes sense to go to a specialist instead of a general doctor.

Most patients have the option to visit an orthopedic doctor without a referral. But check with your insurance provider to see if a referral is necessary to access the payment coverage that you need.

Should You See an Orthopedic Doctor?

There are many reasons to see an orthopedic specialist. You should consider your pain levels and functionality to determine if it’s necessary to talk to an orthopedic specialist.

  • You have pain or limitations with range of motion that make it hard to complete daily tasks, such as bending over, showering, working, or cleaning.
  • You have an acute injury after sports activities or an accident.
  • You want to prevent pain and function issues in the future.
  • You are looking for ways to optimize your performance on the playing field.

If you need to consult with an orthopedic specialist, then Orthopedic Associates is just a phone call away. Schedule a consultation to learn more about our full-service treatment that covers everything from chronic pain to sports injuries and beyond. Call our team if you want to book an appointment: (972) 420-1776.


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