What Is an Orthopedist?


An orthopedist is a medical doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating musculoskeletal conditions. In particular, orthopedists care for injuries or ailments involving muscles, joints and bones. Becoming an orthopedist can involve up to 14 years of education and training, including undergraduate studies, medical school, internships and residency training.

Primary Responsibilities

  • Patients are often referred to an orthopedist by a general practitioner. During an initial visit, the orthopedist reviews a patient's medical history and performs initial diagnostic testing on the injured or sore areas. The orthopedist might ask a patient to move the afflicted area, such as the neck or leg joint, to learn more about the ailment. He might also order X-rays and other tests to further evaluation the condition. After diagnosis, the doctor typically recommends rest or medications, refers the patient for therapy or schedules a surgery. Most orthopedists perform surgical procedures as well.

Specialization and Conditions

  • Some orthopedists specialize in treating certain types of conditions while others work as generalists. Specialty areas include neck pain and foot and ankle injuries. Orthopedists that treat foot and ankle conditions are sometimes confused with podiatrists. However, podiatrists treat a broader range of conditions, such as skin and vascular diseases.

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