Orthopedics is the field of medicine that focuses on surgery on, or manipulation of, the musculoskeletal system. The surgical specialty was originally focused on developmental deformities and the effects of polio in children, but today it has expanded significantly to address all the conditions and diseases affecting the musculoskeletal system in individuals of all ages.
Orthopedic conditions can be treated operatively and nonoperatively with medications, physical therapy, exercise, alternate therapies or by a host of surgical procedures, including some that are minimally invasive and thus less traumatic to the body than traditional open surgery.
The overall goal of orthopedic treatments is to preserve or restore the musculoskeletal system.
Physicians whose practices are focused on orthopedics are called orthopedic surgeons, although not all of them perform surgery. An orthopedic surgeon is qualified to diagnose and manage or treat musculoskeletal system problems that affect the bones and soft tissue (ligaments, tendons) in the body. Furthermore, an orthopedist can recommended rehabilitation methods to patients that may enhance the effect of their treatments. He or she can also provide effective orthopedic education and guidance to patients regarding the prevention of orthopedic injuries and diseases.
Also involved in the field of orthopedics and the delivery of orthopedic health care are several other highly trained professionals, including nurses, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants specially trained in orthopedics; pain and physical medicine physicians; sports trainers; and physical therapists.
Clinical and basic science researchers worldwide continue to add to the knowledge of current and new orthopedic treatments to treat problems with the musculoskeletal system and help patients regain their normal activity level and lifestyle.