Do Orthopedic Surgeons Only Do Surgery?

When picturing an orthopedic surgeon, many people automatically assume that surgery is all these doctors do. However, orthopedics is a complex medical umbrella. Though surgery is a part of it, the surgeons who practice under it can be well-versed in a number of important diagnostic tools, healing methods and other techniques that do not involve surgery at all.

What an orthopedic surgeon does

Though it might surprise some, orthopedic surgeons usually resort to surgery as a last effort.

Specialization versus general orthopedics

The field of orthopedic surgery covers a lot of ground. Not only does it require diagnosing and examining injuries or diseases of the musculoskeletal system but also treats these issues. This system includes all of the joints, ligaments, bones, tendons, nerves and muscles that allows a person to move. Considering there are 206 bones in the average human body, that is a lot of territory to deal with.

General orthopedists are able to pick up on issues anywhere in the musculoskeletal system. However, there may be some issues outside the field. In these cases, the orthopedist may send a patient to a specialized orthopedic surgeon. These specialists may focus on matters involving hands, feet, legs, arms, hips, or one or two other specific regions of the body, rather than having a broader but less detailed practice area.

Sports medicine and rehabilitation

Since many sports involve potentially violent contact, it is natural that the musculoskeletal systems of athletes get damaged often. Orthopedic surgeons are in charge of the immediate and long-term aftercare of these injuries.

In the short-term such issues are often treated with surgical options or physical therapy. Noninvasive treatments are often used because athletes cannot afford to be off the field for long. Rehabilitation is also provided by orthopedic surgeons, as they understand which areas will need to be worked on.

These medical professionals can also prescribe medications to help with pain during the recovery period. Some may even suggest alternative therapies to try alongside traditional medication to hasten healing.


Having orthopedic surgeons who specialize in pediatrics is crucially important because of the differences in the musculoskeletal frame of adolescents versus adults. While an adult’s system is fully formed, a child’s is still forming. This can cause unique complications and problems that only exist in younger patients.

Fortunately, adolescents are also able to recover from damage much faster than adults. Because of this, those younger people who undergo surgery typically have shorter recovery periods. In many cases, a child may be able to get away with not having surgery and can achieve healing through alternative methods. Pediatric orthopedic surgeons know how to handle these unique problems, understanding  what treatments are best and working to avoid anything invasive if possible.


Though people often associate an orthopedic surgeon with invasive surgery, that is not the only thing these professionals do. They tend to all ailments that afflict the musculoskeletal system, whether or not those problems need surgery to be corrected. Orthopedic surgery practice can provide physical therapy, rehabilitation, and medical treatment for painful or debilitating problems, allowing patients to find the treatments and cures needed.

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