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October 10, 2016 - TCO

5 orthopedic facts you should know

The field of orthopedic medicine is growing rapidly, and every year more patients are realizing the benefits of starting with a specialist for treatment of their muscle, joint, bone and ligament injuries. With so many new people visiting our clinics each year, we often find ourselves speaking with patients and family members who aren’t familiar with our field. They often are asking, “What does orthopedics mean?” They don’t know what orthopedics “is,” or they don’t fully understand everything that an orthopedic doctor “does.”

We want our patients and their families to feel empowered and knowledgeable about their care, and that starts by knowing more about our field. Below are the five things we believe everyone should know about orthopedics.

1. The field of orthopedics started with taking care of children.

The term “orthopaedics” (or “orthopedics” in contemporary usage) is rooted in the Greek words ortho (straight) and pais (child). Early orthopedic medicine focused on treating children with spine, limb and other bone-related birth abnormalities. Today, modern orthopedic doctors continue to treat children, but the specialty has evolved significantly to encompass treating patients of all ages for a wide variety of injuries and conditions.

2. Some orthopedic doctors choose to specialize in one area of the body, and some choose to be a generalist.

There is no requirement for orthopedic doctors to specialize in treating one part of the body. Rather, it just comes down to each doctor’s personal preference. Some doctors want to build their expertise in one area of the body while others prefer to treat a diverse group of patients and wide range of musculoskeletal injuries and conditions.

According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons:

  • 32 percent of orthopedic surgeons designate themselves as “general orthopedic surgeons”
  • 37 percent designate themselves “general orthopedic surgeons with specialty interest”
  • 31 percent designate themselves “specialists within orthopedic surgery”

3. Orthopedics is about so much more than surgery.

Orthopedic practices primarily are recognized for their surgical expertise, performing well-known procedures such as ACL surgery, total hip replacement and rotator cuff repair. However, surgery is just one of many different ways orthopedic specialty clinics like TCO are able to help patients.

At TCO, for example, we have Orthopedic Urgent Care clinics for sudden injuries, physical therapy teams for rehabilitation and nonsurgical treatments, Sports Performance programs for athletes who want access to world-class training techniques and equipment, and so much more.

Orthopedic clinics are designed to help patients get back to living healthy, happy lives, and there are many ways to accomplish that goal.

4. Orthopedic doctors treat almost every part of the body.

It’s true that the most common areas of the body that orthopedic doctors treat are knees and shoulders, but orthopedic doctors treat injuries and conditions of almost every area of the body.

The human foot has 26 bones, 33 joints and more than 100 muscles, tendons and ligaments.

The human hand is made up of 27 distinct bones.

And the human spine is comprised of 33 vertebrae.

We treat them all.

Orthopedic specialists treat injuries to every single bone, muscle, tendon and ligament, with some doctors focusing their entire practice on one area of the body. What’s more, orthopedic doctors also treat a wide variety of diseases and other medical conditions in nearly every part of the body, from arthritis and osteoporosis, to bunions and muscle cramps.

5. Nonsurgical treatment always is considered before surgery.

Too often our physical therapists, orthopedic surgeons and athletic trainers meet patients who have been dealing with nagging injuries for months, or even years, and have finally decided to come into TCO to see a specialist — but only as a last resort because they think they “finally” need surgery.

Patients often assume that visiting an orthopedic doctor means they are setting themselves up for surgery, but that’s incorrect. Orthopedic doctors (and surgeons, in particular) would rather help a patient heal via nonsurgical treatment, if possible. Avoiding surgery reduces the risk of complications and can save a patient valuable time and money.

Never let a nagging injury go untreated because doing so can cause long-term injury or disability. Tendons, ligaments and muscles surrounding the injury have to work extra-hard to compensate for the injured body part not pulling its weight, and that can lead to deterioration or further overuse injuries.

If you or a friend or family member ever has questions about orthopedic care, surgery or any of our services, we encourage you to reach out to your nearest TCO clinic location or simply contact us online. We are here to answer all of your questions and help you feel confident and comfortable about every health care decision you make.