The branch of medicine that deals with the musculoskeletal system is orthopedics. The musculoskeletal system consists of the bones, joints, muscles, ligaments, and tendons. Specialists that diagnose and treat conditions and diseases of the musculoskeletal system are called orthopedic surgeons.
To know more about this type of doctor, here are the answers to three frequently asked questions about orthopedic surgeons.
1. Where Do Orthopedic Surgeons Work?
According to the latest statistics, there are over 25,000 practicing orthopedic surgeons in the United States. These specialists work in a variety of medical settings. Most large hospitals have orthopedic surgeons on staff. Clinics that specialize in orthopedics also employ orthopedic surgeons.
Many doctors in this field of medicine have their own private practice. In fact, of all the orthopedic practices in the country, over 73 percent of them are private practices. Other types of practices that orthopedic surgeons work in include academic, military, and locum tenens.
2. What Conditions Do Orthopedic Surgeons Diagnose and Treat?
Orthopedic surgeons diagnose conditions of the musculoskeletal system by performing physical examinations. In order to see what's going on inside the body, an orthopedic surgeon also orders certain diagnostic tests. These tests may include an X-ray, CT scan, and MRI. Some of the most common musculoskeletal conditions are:
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Rotator cuff tear
- Back and neck pain
- Bone fractures
After an orthopedic surgeon makes a diagnosis, they recommend the appropriate treatment. The good news is, many conditions of the musculoskeletal respond positively to treatment. For musculoskeletal conditions that cannot be cured, there are a variety of treatment options available that help to manage symptoms.
3. How Do Orthopedic Surgeons Treat Musculoskeletal Conditions?
Even though they are called surgeons, this type of specialist may recommend non-surgical treatments for musculoskeletal disorders. If the condition is not severe, an orthopedic surgeon may recommend physical therapy. In some cases, especially where the patient is experiencing mild to moderate pain, the treatment might include epidural steroid injections. These shots get injected into the epidural space around the spinal cord.
The epidural steroid injections reduce inflammation around the spinal nerves, which will temporarily alleviate pain. Since this treatment eventually wears off, patients will need to have epidural steroid injections on a regular basis.
If pain is severe, or conservative treatment options do not work for a patient's musculoskeletal condition, an orthopedic surgeon will recommend surgery. Some of the most common orthopedic procedures these surgeons perform include ACL reconstruction surgery, joint replacement surgeries, arthroscopy, joint fusion, spinal surgeries, and trigger finger release.