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    Orthopedic services

    Orthopedics, or orthopedic services, is the medical specialty that involves the treatment of the musculoskeletal system, which is made up of your body’s bones, joints, ligaments, tendons, and muscles.


    Any number of medical problems can affect the bones, joints, ligaments, tendons, and muscles.

    Bone problems may include:

    • Bone deformities
    • Bone infections
    • Bone problems may include:
    • Bone tumors
    • Fractures
    • Need for amputation
    • Nonunions and malunions
    • Spinal deformities

    Joint problems may include:

    • Arthritis
    • Bursitis
    • Dislocation
    • Joint pain
    • Joint swelling
    • Ligament tears

    Common orthopedic-related diagnoses based on body part:

    Ankle and foot:

    • Bunions
    • Fasciitis
    • Foot and ankle deformities
    • Fractures
    • Hammer toe
    • Heel pain
    • Heel spurs
    • Joint pain and arthritis
    • Sprains
    • Tarsal tunnel syndrome
    • Sesamoiditis

    Hand and wrist

    • Fractures
    • Joint pain
    • Arthritis
    • Tendon or ligament injury
    • Carpal tunnel syndrome
    • Ganglion cyst
    • Rheumatoid arthritis
    • Tendinitis


    • Arthritis
    • Bursitis
    • Dislocation
    • Frozen shoulder (adhesive capsulitis)
    • Impingement syndrome
    • Loose or foreign bodies
    • Rotator cuff tear
    • Rotator cuff tendinitis
    • Separation
    • Torn labrum
    • SLAP tears


    • Cartilage and meniscus injuries
    • Dislocation of the kneecap (patella)
    • Ligament sprains or tears (anterior cruciate, posterior cruciate, medial collateral and lateral collateral ligament tears)
    • Loose or foreign bodies
    • Osgood-Schlatter disease
    • Pain
    • Tendinitis


    • Arthritis
    • Bursitis
    • Dislocation or separation
    • Ligament sprains or tears
    • Loose or foreign bodies
    • Pain
    • Tennis or golfers elbow (epicondylitis or tendinitis)
    • Elbow stiffness or contractures


    • Herniated (slipped) disc
    • Infection of the spine
    • Injury to the spine
    • Scoliosis
    • Spinal stenosis
    • Spinal tumor
    • Fractures
    • Spinal cord injuries


    Imaging procedures can help diagnose or even treat many orthopedic conditions. Your health care provider may order:

    • Arthrograms (joint x-ray)
    • Bone scans
    • Computed tomography (CT) scan
    • Discography
    • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan
    • X-rays

    Sometimes, treatment involves injections of medicine into the painful area. This may involve:

    • Corticosteroid injections into joints, tendons and ligaments, and around the spine
    • Hyaluronic acid injection to help relieve arthritis pain

    Surgical procedures used in the treatment of orthopedics include:

    • Amputation
    • Arthroscopic surgeries
    • Bunionectomy and hammer toe repair
    • Cartilage repair or resurfacing procedures
    • Cartilage surgery to knee
    • Fracture care
    • Joint replacement (arthroplasty)
    • Ligament reconstructions
    • Repair of torn ligaments and tendons
    • Spine surgery, including diskectomy, foraminotomy, laminectomy, and spinal fusion

    Newer orthopedic services procedures include minimally invasive surgery techniques, advanced external fixation, and the use of bone graft substitutes and bone-fusing protein.


    Orthopedic care often involves a team approach. Your team may include a doctor as well as a non-doctor specialist such as a physical therapist, as well as others.

    • Orthopedic surgeons receive 5 or more extra years of training in the care of disorders of the bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments.
    • Physical medicine and rehabilitation doctors have 4 or more extra years of training in this type of care after they graduated from medical school. They are also referred to as physiatrists. They do not perform surgery although they can give joint injections.
    • Sports medicine physicians are doctors with experience in sports medicine who have a primary specialty in family practice, internal medicine, emergency medicine, pediatrics, or physical medicine and rehabilitation. Most have 1-2 years of additional training in sports medicine through subspecialty programs in sports medicine. Sports medicine is a special branch of orthopedics designed to provide complete medical care to active people of all ages.

    Other doctors that may be a part of the orthopedics team include:

    • Neurologists
    • Pain specialists
    • Primary care doctors
    • Psychiatrists

    Non-doctor health professionals that may be a part of the orthopedics team include:

    • Athletic trainers
    • Counselors
    • Nurse practitioners
    • Physical therapists
    • Physician assistants
    • Psychologists
    • Social workers
    • Vocational workers


    Canale ST, Beaty JH, eds. Campbell's Operative Orthopaedics. 11th ed. Philadelphia,Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2007.

    Silverstein JA, Moeller JL, Hutchinson MR. Common issues in orthopedics. In: Rakel RE, ed. Textbook of Family Medicine. 8th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 30.

    Musculoskeletal disorders.In:Frontera, WR, Silver JK, Rizzo TD Jr, eds. Essentials of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2008: chap 1 - 88.


          A Closer Look

            Self Care

              Tests for Orthopedic services

                Review Date: 3/1/2012

                Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director and Director of Didactic Curriculum, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington. C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Assistant Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

                The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

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