Ortho Meaning: The Things You Need To Know

Ortho Meaning: The Things You Need To Know


Orthopedic doctors specialize in the management of pain related to the musculoskeletal system. But what does the word orthopedic actually mean? The word ‘orthopedics’ and ortho meaning originates from the Ancient Greek words orthos (meaning correct or straight) and paidion (meaning child). Historically, orthopedics was developed with a focus on children but eventually branched out to include the correction of musculoskeletal complaints throughout all life stages.

This piece aims to break down the types of orthopedic practice, and the types of orthopedic professionals and doctors.


What is Orthopedics?

Orthopedics is a specialized medical field with a primary focus on the musculoskeletal system, which encapsulates muscles, bones, tendons, ligaments, and joints.

Orthopedic specialists are referred to as orthopedists and are especially medically trained professionals that will make use of both surgical and non-surgical interventions to treat any injuries or problems related to the musculoskeletal system, including but not limited to injuries sustained during sport, joint complaints, back complaints, and hereditary diseases affecting the musculoskeletal system.

In many instances, orthopedists work closely with other medical personnel, specifically physical and occupational therapists, biokineticists, and nurses.


Types of Orthopedic Practice

Orthopedic doctors can specialize in particular branches and locations of the body or musculoskeletal system. They can also specialize in particular musculoskeletal illnesses or diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis or musculoskeletal oncology.

  • Upper extremities

    This subspecialty includes shoulders, elbows, hands, and fingers. Conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome, trigger finger, and other pain complaints in this area are treated by orthopedists that specialize in upper extremities.

  • Foot and ankle

    Any pain and discomfort that moves towards the lower part of the body, including knees, ankles, and feet, can be addressed by an orthopedist subspecializing in feet and ankles. With Complaints related to your feet, your orthopedist may collaborate closely with a podiatrist (a doctor who specializes in feet) to streamline your treatment.

  • Spine

    Some orthopedists specialize in complaints relating to the spine and notably perform treatments and surgeries on the spine. Common spinal complaints treated by this subspecialty of orthopedists are slipped vertebral discs, and scoliosis, which are treated with various therapies and surgeries, including spinal fusions.

  • Sports Medicine

    Sports injuries are common, and orthopedists who specialized in sports injuries focus on healing the injury in the easiest way possible and then rehabilitating the area of function so that the affected joint, muscle, tendon, or ligament can be restored to its full function before the injury occurred.

  • Joint Replacement Surgery

    Joint replacement surgery involves the removal of a damaged joint, and its replacement with a prosthetic joint, which is usually made of metal. This type of surgery is extremely common and routine when it comes to treating recurring joint problems. Some orthopedists specialize in joint replacement surgery exclusively and are the sub-type of orthopedic doctors that would be consulted for this type of surgery.


Types of Orthopedic Doctors

The field of orthopedics also has divisions on what types of orthopedic doctors there are:

1. Orthopedic Surgeons

Orthopedic surgeons are orthopedists that specialize in surgical interventions of treatments for musculoskeletal complaints. This means that their primary focus is treated through surgery.

Orthopedic surgeons can perform a wide variety of surgical procedures, but the most common ones are as follows:

  • Total joint replacement

    A total joint replacement is also referred to as TJR or an arthroplasty. This procedure involves the complete removal of a damaged joint, replacing it with a prosthetic joint that is usually made of metal. These surgeries are routine and commonplace.

  • Fracture repair surgery

    This type of surgery is usually performed on severely broken bones that cannot heal with reallocation and a cast alone. This procedure involves the insertion of stabilizing materials into the fractured bones, such as plates, screws, and rods.

  • Arthroscopic surgery

    This type of procedure is not as invasive as other surgeries performed by orthopedic surgeons. This type of surgery is usually a diagnostic surgery, whereby a very small camera is inserted into a small incision near the joint in question (usually a knee or shoulder), to see the joint and diagnose any problems.

  • Spinal fusion

    As the name suggests, this type of procedure is performed to fuse together adjacent vertebrae of the spine, healing the vertebrae into a single mass. This type of surgery is usually performed to remedy injuries to the vertebrae or intervertebral discs and to treat scoliosis.  

  • Bone grafting surgery

    In this type of procedure, a healthy bone from a different place in the patient’s body is placed in the area of complaint and used to strengthen and heal damaged or diseased bones in another area of the patient’s body.


2. Pediatric Orthopedic Surgeons

Pediatric orthopedic surgeons specialize in the treatment of muscular, joint, and bone-related disorders in children, chiefly from infancy up to teenagers.

Pediatric orthopedics differs from regular orthopedics in that children’s bodies are still growing and developing, and thus have a vastly different musculoskeletal composition compared to adults. This necessitates a different treatment approach to that which would be used to treat adult musculoskeletal complaints.

Pediatric orthopedic surgeons also make a lot more use of treatments such as casts and limb braces for stability and healing of broken bones in children, as their bodies change so rapidly.

Pediatric orthopedists are also used to treat congenital musculoskeletal problems – problems that children may be born with. They are also trained to deal with growth abnormalities.


3. Sports Medicine Doctor

This type of specialization is centered around musculoskeletal injuries, particularly those sustained during physical exercise or sport.

The treatment of injuries is specialized, because not only does the injury need to be repaired, but careful rehabilitation needs to occur in a safe and staggered manner in order to gain full and complete use of the affected area or joint.


Orthopedics – FAQs


1. Is orthopedics the same as dentistry?

Strictly speaking, no. However, the two disciplines overlap in a specialization known as orthodontics, which is the treatment of dental conditions that involve the realignment and development of the jaws, as a part of the musculoskeletal system. This is sometimes referred to as dentofacial orthopedics or maxillofacial and oral surgery.


2. When should I see an orthopedic surgeon?

If you are experiencing pain in a joint or bone, or are experiencing any discomfort when moving, it is a good idea to see an orthopedic specialist. If you have injured a joint, ligament, or tendon, then it is advisable to seek out an orthopedic surgeon.


3. Is Orthopedics hard?

The specialization of orthopedics (as well as its sub-specializations discussed above) is a highly focused field that requires many years of dedicated and concentrated training in both the medical field as well as whichever specialization is chosen.


The bottom line

Ortho meaning relating to your musculoskeletal system is essentially orthopedics, which is a highly specialized and focused medical discipline that centers on the different parts of your musculoskeletal system that may require diagnosis, treatment, repair, replacement, and rehabilitation to regain full range of motion and movement again.

Orthopedics is a large field and encapsulates various sub-specializations, which are tailored to fit specific patient needs.

If you would like to learn more about orthopedics, and whether an orthopedic professional is right for you, visit Orthopedic Physician Associates, call us at 206-309-5007, and contact an orthopedic physician for more information.


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