Updated: 2022, Sep 25

4 Frequently Asked Questions Patients Have About Orthopedics

Find answers to frequently asked questions about orthopaedics, orthopaedic specialists, and common tests and treatment definitions.

When it comes to orthopedics, you may not think too much about it until the time comes to schedule an appointment with an orthopedic doctor. It is only then that you may realize you have some questions about orthopedics. If so, you are not alone. Read on to discover 4 frequently asked questions other patients may have about orthopedics. The answers may help you put your mind at ease before seeing your doctor.

4 Frequently Asked Questions Patients Have About Orthopedics
Frequently Asked Questions About Orthopedics. Image/Shutterstock

What is an Orthopedic Doctor, and What Training do they Have?

An orthopedic doctor may hold a degree as a medical doctor or M.D., or a doctor of osteopathic medicine D.O. They both specialize in the musculoskeletal system, taking care of problems and conditions related to bones, tendons, ligaments, joints, and nerves.

Many orthopedists tend to specialize in a particular area of the body. This may be the back, the spine, the foot, the ankle, the arm, the hand, or the wrist. They may further specialize in pediatric orthopedics, trauma, or sports medicine.

If you suffer from an injury or condition affecting a certain part of your musculoskeletal system, take the time to find a specialist with experience in that area.

Board-certified orthopedic surgeons have over 10 years of formal education under their belts. After obtaining an undergraduate degree in a college or university, they go to medical school for 4 more years. Their next five years are devoted to a residency in orthopedics. Some go on to a one-year fellowship program to further their specialization. They must also take continuing education courses every year to stay updated in their knowledge and skills.

What Diagnostic Tests Do Orthopedic Doctors Use?

These days, technology allows orthopedists to rely on many accurate tests to diagnose and evaluate their patients’ recovery. Often, the diagnosis starts with an X-ray, a two-dimensional picture of the area that is being studied. This allows your doctor to look at a bone fracture, an injury, or conditions like osteoporosis or arthritis.

An MRI or magnetic resonance imaging uses magnetic fields and radio waves to get a picture of the body’s inner workings, clearly marking the difference between healthy and diseased tissues. By revealing health problems early, better treatments and outcomes may be achieved.

A computed tomography or CAT scan provides images similar in detail and quality to those produced by an MRI. The difference is that the CAT scan takes a 360-degree image of internal organs and the spine, and these scans can also provide cross-sectional images of the body, which are clearer to see than those provided by an MRI.

When it comes to diagnosing osteoporosis, a bone density scan is the preferred diagnostic test. While years ago, it was not until the patient experiences a bone fracture that this disease could be confirmed, these days, a bone density scan provides an accurate diagnosis before bones start to break, and treatment can be started much earlier. This test measures the amount of calcium and other important minerals in a section of bone. This could be in the hip, spine, or forearm.

What is Joint Replacement Surgery, and When is it Needed?

When a joint suffers damage, is injured, or has arthritis, joint replacement surgery may be called for. Through this procedure, a new, artificial joint is placed in the area occupied by the one giving you trouble. Although joint replacements can be performed on every joint in the body, it is much more common to have them done in the hip, shoulder, knee, or elbow.


*All individuals are unique. Your results can and will vary.

When the joint functions as it should, it is because the cartilage, a gel-like substance that covers the end of the bone, helps with the movement of the joint. Whether the joint is injured or with the passage of time, the cartilage wears away, allowing the bones to rub against each other as they move. Not only may this cause the joints to become painful and stiff, but bone spurs may also be created, causing even more pain.

When the pain is no longer manageable, and when medication and other alternative treatments no longer help control the pain, the quality of life of the patient may be impacted significantly. In these cases, surgery becomes the only option.

Fortunately, a joint replacement offers a very good solution when there is a problem with a joint. When the patient takes the time to follow all post-op instructions and therapies, a joint replacement can have the patient moving freely once again.

What are Some of the Conditions that an Orthopedist Treats?

Although there are many conditions and diseases that may be treated by an orthopedic doctor, arthritis, bursitis, and osteoporosis occupy a big segment of their time. Arthritis refers to over 100 rheumatic diseases that create stiffness, swelling in the joints, and pain in those who suffer from them. Osteoarthritis is a progressive disease that causes damage to the cartilage that covers the ends of bones, particularly those of the hips, spine, and knees. Rheumatoid arthritis damages the lining of the bones but, over time, also destroys bones, tissue, and joints.

Bursitis causes inflammation of fluid-filled sacs or bursas that are located around the joints, causing pain and loss of motion. It can happen in the thumb, heel, knee, hip, or shoulder. Osteoporosis develops when the mineral density and the mass of the bone decrease. As the strength of the bone diminishes, it is common for bones to break. This silent disease causes no symptoms until bones start to break. It is important to keep up with bone density scans, follow your doctor’s instructions, and take all medications as prescribed to avoid breaking a bone.

These are just some of the most common questions orthopedists are asked. If you have any other questions or concerns, do not hesitate to share them with your doctor during your visit. The better informed you are, the better you will feel about your treatment.

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Robert G. Silverman, MS, CCN, CNS, CSCS

Dr. Robert G. Silverman is a chiropractic doctor, clinical nutritionist, and author of 'Inside-Out Health: A Revolutionary Approach to

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