Career Options in Orthopedics

Doctor studying x-rays

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Orthopedics is the medical specialty focusing on the diagnosis, treatment, and repair of bones, muscles, ligaments, tendons, and joints. This includes broken bones, torn ligaments, some spinal injuries, for example.

Orthopedics is primarily a surgical specialty, although there are a few physicians and medical professionals who practice non-surgical orthopedics such as sports medicine, or physical medicine.

Other than surgery, orthopedic surgeons may prescribe medications, physical therapy, or steroid injections to treat a variety of injuries or conditions such as arthritis of the joints, pulled muscles, and other orthopedic issues.

Orthopedic Surgeon

Orthopedic surgeons are involved in all aspects of health care pertaining to the musculoskeletal system. They use medical, physical, and rehabilitative methods as well as surgery. Typically, as much as 50% of the orthopedic surgeon's practice is devoted to no surgical or medical management of injuries or disease and 50 percent to surgical management. Surgery may be needed to restore function lost as a result of injury or disease of bones, joints, muscles, tendons, ligaments, nerves, or skin. The orthopedic surgeon also works closely with other healthcare professionals and often serves as a consultant to other physicians. Orthopedic surgeons play an important role in the organization and delivery of emergency care. They are members of the teams that manage complex, multi-system trauma.

Orthopedic surgeons treat a wide variety of diseases and conditions, including

  • Fractures and dislocations
  • Torn ligaments, sprains, and strains
  • Tendon injuries, pulled muscles, and bursitis
  • Ruptured disks, sciatica, low back pain, and scoliosis
  • Knock knees, bow legs, bunions, and hammertoes
  • Arthritis and osteoporosis
  • Bone tumors, muscular dystrophy, and cerebral palsy
  • Clubfoot and unequal leg length
  • Abnormalities of the fingers and toes and growth abnormalities

Sports Medicine Physician

Sports medicine (a subspecialty of family medicine) focuses on helping people improve their athletic performance, recover from injury and prevent future injuries. It is a fast-growing healthcare field because health workers who specialize in sports medicine help all kinds of people, not just athletes. Sports medicine professionals treat amateur athletes, those who want better results from their exercise program, people who have suffered injuries and are trying to regain full function and those with disabilities who are trying to increase mobility and capability.

Orthopedic Nurse

An orthopedic nurse is a nursing professional that cares for patients suffering from disorders, diseases, and injuries of the musculoskeletal system. As an orthopedic nurse, you will need to have a very deep understanding of both the muscular system and skeletal system and how they work together as the musculoskeletal system. Orthopedic nurses typically work with patients of all ages. However, these nursing professionals can also choose to specialize in certain types of patients. Pediatric orthopedic nurses, for instance, work primarily with children.

Physical Therapist

Physical therapists, sometimes called PTs, help injured or ill people improve their movement and manage their pain. These therapists are often an important part of rehabilitation, treatment, and prevention of patients with chronic conditions, illnesses, or injuries.