Understanding the Value of Orthopedic Specialists
An orthopedist is a physician that specializes in treating skeletal injuries and diseases. Some of the conditions they treat are bone fractures, sports injuries, carpal tunnel, spinal injuries, back or hip pain, and arthritis. Orthopedic treatments may be surgical or non-surgical.
'Orthopedic' is a broad term used to define both orthopedic doctors and orthopedic surgeons. All orthopedic specialists have the training to diagnose, manage and treat conditions affecting the musculoskeletal system using non-invasive methods. Orthopedic surgeons, on the other hand, are qualified to operate. Orthopedic doctors, operative or not, will find the best treatment option for you.
Orthopedic Specialist or Primary Care Physician?
It is advised to start with a primary care physician when experiencing both orthopedic (bone and joint pain) and non-orthopedic symptoms after an injury. However, it is common practice to see an orthopedic specialist immediately after traumatic injuries.
When to See an Orthopedic Specialist
In the case of:
- Chronic pain
- Significant decrease in mobility or trouble standing
- A soft tissue injury that doesn't resolve within 48 hours
Should you see an orthopedic specialist or an orthopedic surgeon now that you have decided to see an orthopedist?
Considering that 70 percent of all sports injuries can be treated without surgery, seeing an orthopedic specialist first is wise, especially when you have no precise diagnosis. However, when a diagnosis includes surgery as a treatment plan, it is wise to seek an orthopedic surgeon.
The Value of Orthopedic Subspecialties
Some orthopedic doctors continue their medical education in special areas of interest. Examples of specialized treatment areas include:
- Hip and Knee
- Foot and Ankle
- Shoulder and Elbow
- Oncology - knee tumors
- Sports Medicine
- Joint Replacement
Specialists are more knowledgeable in their area of expertise, allowing them to navigate critical and complex areas, especially in surgery.
Finding Your Orthopedic Specialist: Considerations
1. Training and Qualifications
Look for an orthopedist who has completed one year of fellowship training to specialize in your condition. Orthopedists go through fellowship training after completing eight years of formal education and five years of residency. Board-certified orthopedists maintain their certification by undergoing continuous learning and examinations.
Orthopedic specialists at institutions that conduct clinical research have access to many resources spanning diagnosis, treatment, pain management, and rehabilitation.
Getting recommendations from your primary care provider or friends and relatives who have been in similar conditions can go a long way in helping you find an orthopedist. You can also search online databases like AAOS.
Orthopedist Costs and Insurance
Whether surgical or not, it is crucial to know whether your insurance company covers orthopedic care when looking for an orthopedist. Otherwise, you'll have to cover the medical costs out-of-pocket. Insurance often covers treatments and diagnoses that are medically necessary. Contact your insurance provider to determine what is covered before visiting an orthopedic doctor.
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