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Orthopedic services



Orthopedics, or orthopedic services, is the medical specialty that involves the treatment of the musculoskeletal system, which is made up of your body’s bones, joints, ligaments, tendons, and muscles.


Any number of medical problems can affect the bones, joints, ligaments, tendons, and muscles.

Bone problems may include:

  • Bone deformities
  • Bone infections
  • Bone problems may include:
  • Bone tumors
  • Fractures
  • Need for amputation
  • Nonunions and malunions
  • Spinal deformities

Joint problems may include:

Common orthopedic-related diagnoses based on body part:

Ankle and foot:

  • Bunions
  • Fasciitis
  • Foot and ankle deformities
  • Fractures
  • Hammer toe
  • Heel pain
  • Heel spurs
  • Joint pain and arthritis
  • Sprains
  • Tarsal tunnel syndrome
  • Sesamoiditis

Hand and wrist



  • Cartilage and meniscus injuries
  • Dislocation of the kneecap (patella)
  • Ligament sprains or tears (anterior cruciate, posterior cruciate, medial collateral and lateral collateral ligament tears)
  • Loose or foreign bodies
  • Osgood-Schlatter disease
  • Pain
  • Tendinitis


  • Arthritis
  • Bursitis
  • Dislocation or separation
  • Loose or foreign bodies
  • Pain
  • Tennis or golfers elbow (epicondylitis or tendinitis)
  • Elbow stiffness or contractures



Imaging procedures can help diagnose or even treat many orthopedic conditions. Your doctor may order:

Sometimes, treatment involves injections of medicine into the painful area. This may involve:

  • Corticosteroid injections into joints, tendons and ligaments, and around the spine
  • Hyaluronic acid injection to help relieve arthritis pain

Surgical procedures used in the treatment of orthopedics include:

  • Amputation
  • Arthroscopic surgeries
  • Bunionectomy and hammer toe repair
  • Cartilage repair or resurfacing procedures
  • Cartilage surgery to knee
  • Fracture care
  • Joint replacement (arthroplasty)
  • Ligament reconstructions
  • Repair of torn ligaments and tendons
  • Spine surgery, including diskectomy, foraminotomy, laminectomy, and spinal fusion

Newer orthopedic services procedures include minimally invasive surgery techniques, advanced external fixation, and the use of bone graft substitutes and bone-fusing protein.


Orthopedic care often involves a team approach. Your team may include a doctor as well as a non-doctor specialist such as a physical therapist, as well as others.

  • Orthopedic surgeons receive 5 or more extra years of training in the care of disorders of the bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments.
  • Physical medicine and rehabilitation doctors have 4 or more extra years of training in this type of care after they graduated from medical school. They are also referred to as physiatrists. They do not perform surgery although they can give joint injections.
  • Sports medicine physicians are doctors with experience in sports medicine who have a primary specialty in family practice, internal medicine, emergency medicine, pediatrics, or physical medicine and rehabilitation. Most have 1-2 years of additional training in sports medicine through subspecialty programs in sports medicine. Sports medicine is a special branch of orthopedics designed to provide complete medical care to active people of all ages.

Other doctors that may be a part of the orthopedics team include:

  • Neurologists
  • Pain specialists
  • Primary care doctors
  • Psychiatrists

Non-doctor health professionals that may be a part of the orthopedics team include:

  • Athletic trainers
  • Counselors
  • Physical therapists
  • Psychologists
  • Social workers
  • Vocational workers

Krabak BJ, Banks NL. Adhesive capsulitis. In: Frontera WR, Silver JK, eds. Essentials of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2008:chap 10.

Ho K, Abu-Laban RB. Ankle and foot. In: Marx J, ed. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 6th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2006:chap 55.

Review Date: 3/31/2010
Reviewed By: C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Assistant Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Dept of Orthopaedic Surgery. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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