The Role of Orthopedic Physicians

The Role of Orthopedic Physicians


Orthopedics is the branch of medicine concerned with diseases, injuries and conditions of the musculoskeletal system or the body’s muscles and skeleton. This structure also includes the joints, tendons, ligaments and nerves.

Meanwhile, orthopedic physicians are the medical specialists who provide preventive and surgical treatment of the musculoskeletal system.

The term orthopedics has been originally derived from two Greek words, ortho, which means ‘straight’ and paedia, implying children.

Orthopedic Surgery

Experts insist that the accurate name of this medical specialty is actually orthopedic surgery, instead of orthopedics. However, orthopedics is the commonly recognized and accepted term for the purpose.

As a line of specialists, orthopedic surgery is made up of physicians and other healthcare professionals who provide comprehensive orthopedic services. This line of expertise provides treatment and care of diseases, injuries, fractures and pain.

In addition, orthopedists also design rehabilitation programs for the physically disabled and participate in ongoing musculoskeletal research.

Orthopedic Physicians – Key Roles

The main roles of an orthopedic physician can be divided into the following sub-heads:

Diagnostic and assessment procedures Treatment Research

Here we have discussed each of the roles in detail to facilitate a better understanding of an orthopedic physician’s role and functions.

Diagnostic Role

A vast number of patients visit their orthopedic physicians every year from a series of disorders and medical conditions.

There are a vast number of conditions that affect our body’s musculoskeletal system, which require clinical care by an orthopedic physician

The main amongst these are:

Arthritis (Osteoarthritis, Rheumatoid arthritis) Bursitis Elbow conditions (Cubital Tunnel Syndrome, Elbow, Baseball Elbow) Fibromyalgia Foot pain and problems Fractures Low back pain Hand pain and problems (Carpal Tunnel Syndrome) Knee Pain and problems (Ligament injuries, Torn Menicus) Kyphosis Neck Pain and Problems Osteoporosis Paget’s Disease of the Bone Scoliosis Shoulder pain and problems Soft tissue injuries

Diagnostic Tools

There are a series of diagnostic tools that an orthopedic physician uses for accurate diagnosis of various medical conditions. Here we briefly discuss each one of these.

Diagnostic X-rays

These are needed in most of the cases to perform an initial evaluation and measure the progress during the healing process.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

This a type high-tech scanner, which uses magnetic fields to create slices of a picture of a part of the body, used to evaluate and verify your specific injury.

Other Functional Areas

A section of orthopedic physicians also deal with the following functional areas:

Functional mobility Balance and gait retraining Soft-tissue mobilization Body mechanics education Casting and splinting Wheelchair safety and management Neuromuscular re-education Exercise programming Family education and training Assistance with pain relief and management Instruction in safe ambulation

Role in Treatments

An orthopedic physician usually specializes in various treatment modalities, which are primarily non-surgical in nature.

Here we have furnished a brief list of each one of these roles.

Medication, such as NSAIDs and other pain killers and anti-inflammatory medicines Alternative therapies Rehabilitation through physiotherapy Minimally invasive pain management techniques, such as facet joint injections, such as facet joint injections, epidurals, knee, hip and shoulder joint injections, nerve root blocks and the like.


In addition to their diagnostic and therapeutic functions, orthopedic physicians also play an important role of conducting research in their respective sub-specialty field.

Orthopedic physicians conduct active research to look for more result-oriented remedies to the common medical conditions. Another significant aim of the research is to ascertain the efficacy and safety of new medicines and other treatment modalities.

Selecting an Orthopedic Physician

When in need of specialized orthopedic care, it is important to select an orthopedic physician who has been thoroughly trained in the specific medical condition.

Here we list a brief set of questions to ask before you select an orthopedic physician for your condition.

Does the physician have any fellowship training in the specialty? Does he/she primarily work in one or two areas of orthopedics? How many patients does he/she see for this particular condition every year? How many surgeries of this kind does he perform every year? What is the standard pattern of the outcomes of his treatments?