The term “orthopedic” refers to anything that involves the musculoskeletal system.
This includes various conditions that may affect bones, joints, nerves, and soft tissues such as muscles, ligaments, and tendons. There are many orthopedic specialists who provide general orthopedic care, including primary care doctors, chiropractors, orthopedic surgeons, and pain management specialists.
Goals specific to this type of care typically include minimizing or easing discomfort and restoring quality of life by improving range of motion, mobility, flexibility, and strength.
Diagnosing Bone, Joint, and Spine Conditions
A big part of general orthopedic care is providing patients with an accurate diagnosis of a suspected bone or joint condition. The most common source of musculoskeletal pain is arthritis, a progressive, inflammation-based disease that can weaken the cartilage that reduces friction on joints. Orthopedists also frequently see patients with varying degrees of back and neck pain related to issues that may include nerve compression, herniated discs, slipped vertebrae, or spinal instability. Orthopedic specialists can also diagnose and treat problems related to:
- Bone or joint fractures or dislocations
- Arms, elbows, wrists, and hands
- Knees, ankles, upper and lower legs, and feet
- Hips and shoulders
- Spinal deformities
- Inflamed, irritated, or damaged ligaments or tendons
- Bone deformities, infections, or tumors
Customizing Treatment Options
Oftentimes, musculoskeletal conditions can be managed effectively with a customized treatment plan that includes physical therapy and rehabilitation and a combination of pain and anti-inflammatory medications. Surgery is usually a last resort, although many common orthopedic procedures performed today involve minimally invasive surgical techniques that reduce risks and shorten recovery times. The treatment of orthopedic conditions may also involve:
- Corticosteroid injections directly into the affected area
- Hyaluronic acid injections to ease arthritic pain
- Ligament or tendon reconstructions
- Joint replacements
Providing Ongoing Care and Management
Not all orthopedic conditions are completely reversible or treatable, as is often the case with bone and joint pain related to underlying conditions like arthritis or age-related changes to bones, muscles, or joints. In instances like this, general orthopedic care normally involves ongoing care and management, which usually means therapeutic exercises, periodic image tests to track the progression of the condition, and evaluations of treatment plans to determine if adjustments need to be made.
Basing Treatments On Patient Goals
Not everyone seeking orthopedic care will have the same goals. For instance, younger, athletic individuals often prefer to get back to their normal level of performance. Therefore, treatment would involve a focus on fully restoring joint, bone, or muscle strength and function. Other patients simply prefer to be able to go through their day without a high level of distracting or debilitating pain, which may mean more of a focus on pain management.
Another goal with general orthopedic care is prevention. This is why it’s not unusual for orthopedic specialists to offer advice on ways to reduce the risk of experiencing future bone, joint, and soft tissue injuries. Suggestions may also be given about topics such as diet and exercise habits, posture, how to get better sleep when living with arthritis or spine pain, and even how to minimize lower back stress from long periods of sitting at work.