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What is Orthopedic Surgery?

Orthopedic surgeons, sometimes just called orthopedists, are surgical doctors of the musculoskeletal system. They work to keep your body active and in motion by treating problems with your bones, joints, tendons and muscles. The most frequently treated disorder seen by orthopedic surgeons is osteoarthritis, a common “wear-and-tear” problem where the cartilage that cushions the ends of the bones wears down, causing friction and pain. Orthopedic surgeons might also see patients for bone and joint deformities, amputation, infections of the bone and joint, overuse injuries, or nerve compression.

Orthopedic surgeons can order tests such as blood work and x-rays to get a clearer picture of the issue. Depending on the illness or injury, more than one different form of treatment may be used. Treatment may include:

  • Surgery, such as fusing bones together to increase stability, or replacing a joint
  • Medication, such as pain medication or steroids to promote healing
  • Casts, splints, or orthotics (devices such as braces or shoe inserts to support the body)
  • Physical therapy, a kind of treatment using exercise, stretching, heat, and massage to heal the body
  • Exercise, stretching, movement, and use of the affected part

Orthopedic surgeons also work to prevent injuries and slow the progression of disease in their patients. They educate patients on ways to prevent future injuries, and they treat illness in order to prevent further damage to bones or joints that may be affected by disease. The goal of an orthopedic surgeon is to help their patients restore movement and regain an active life.