Orthopaedics and You: What Patients Should Know

Orthopedic doctor consulting with patient after wrist surgery

What Does an Orthopaedic Doctor Do?

  • Diagnosing injuries and disorders through examination, testing, and imaging
  • Providing nonsurgical treatment such as medication, injections, bracing, and physical therapy
  • Performing surgery when needed to realign bones, repair damaged tissue, or implant/replace joints
  • Guiding rehabilitation and recovery to restore movement and function

Orthopaedic Subspecialties

  • Foot and ankle
  • Hand and wrist
  • Hip and knee reconstruction
  • Orthopaedic oncology (bone tumors)
  • Orthopaedic trauma
  • Pediatric orthopaedics
  • Shoulder and elbow
  • Spine disorders
  • Sports medicine

Orthopaedic Education and Training

  • 4 years undergraduate study to earn a bachelor’s degree
  • 4 years of medical school resulting in a Doctor of Medicine (MD) or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) degree
  • 5 years of residency training in orthopaedic surgery
  • Optional 1-2 years of fellowship training in a subspecialty area

When Should You See an Orthopaedist?

  • Unexplained aches or pains lasting over 3 months
  • Inability to carry out daily activities due to joint stiffness, weakness, or limited mobility
  • Sports and overuse injuries not improving with rest
  • Recommendation for surgery by another physician
  • Desire for a second opinion on a diagnosis or treatment plan

Common Conditions Treated by Orthopaedists

  • Arthritis - wearing down of joint cartilage causing pain, swelling, and stiffness
  • Fractures - broken or cracked bones, often requiring realignment and immobilization to heal
  • Sprains/strains - injury to ligaments and tendons from twisting or overstretching
  • Tendonitis - swelling and irritation of a tendon from overuse
  • Bursitis - inflammation of small fluid sacs between bone and soft tissue
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome - pinched nerve in the wrist causing numbness and tingling
  • Low back pain - ache, tension, or soreness in the lower back area
  • Herniated disc - rupture of a spinal disc putting pressure on nerves
  • Sciatica - radiating leg pain caused by compression of the sciatic nerve
  • Osteoporosis - weakening of bones that increases fracture risk
  • Scoliosis - abnormal sideways spinal curve
  • Rickets - softening of bones in children due to vitamin D deficiency
  • Developmental dysplasia of the hip - shallow hip socket causing joint instability
  • Legg-Calve-Perthes - loss of blood flow to the hip joint in children
  • Osteochondritis dissecans - damage to bone cartilage most often in the knee, elbow, or ankle
  • Osteomyelitis - bone infection typically caused by bacteria

Treatments Provided by Orthopaedists

  • Prescription medications - oral or topical drugs to reduce pain and inflammation
  • Joint injections - delivery of corticosteroid medication directly into the joint
  • Assistive devices - braces, splints, or casts to support and immobilize the injured area
  • Physical therapy - exercises and modalities to improve strength, flexibility, balance, and function
  • Surgery - different techniques to reconstruct, reconnect, or replace damaged joints and tissue
  • Nutritional guidance - diet adjustments to promote bone and muscle health
  • Activity modification - recommendations on adjusting movements and sports to prevent re-injury

Advances in Orthopaedics

  • Arthroscopic techniques to diagnose joint problems using a small camera
  • Improved surgical treatments for arthritis with joint replacement procedures
  • Fracture repair with plates, screws, and pins to properly realign bones
  • Tissue engineering research to potentially regrow articular cartilage
  • Advanced imaging methods like CT scans and MRIs for enhanced diagnosis
  • Robotic surgery and computer navigation for more precise, less invasive procedures

Why Choose an Orthopaedic Surgeon?

Orthopaedic surgeons have the most extensive training and expertise when it comes to diagnosing and treating musculoskeletal conditions. Their medical background, years of specialty education, rigorous board certification process, and focus on maintaining skills make them uniquely qualified to get you back on your feet.

For Those Seeking Orthopaedic Care in Birmingham, Alabama

If you are looking for compassionate, advanced orthopaedic care in the Birmingham region, feel free to reach out to orthopaedic surgeon Dr. Herrick J. Siegel. With over 20 years of experience, Dr. Siegel provides personalized attention to patients of all ages suffering from bone, muscle, and joint problems. Contact his office today to learn more and schedule your appointment!