— FAQs & Tips —

Please review the following information to access answers to frequently asked questions pertaining to orthopaedics, orthopaedic specialists, and definitions of common tests and treatments.

— FAQ: General Orthopaedics —

What is orthopaedics?
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Orthopaedics (alternatively, orthopedics) is a medical specialty focused on the diagnosis and treatment of conditions, disorders, and injuries of the muscles, bones, joints, tendons, ligaments, and nerves. An orthopedic doctor who specializes in this medical specialty is called an orthopaedic surgeon.

What is arthritis?
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The word arthritis literally means “joint inflammation.” Arthritis refers to a group of more than 100 rheumatic diseases and other conditions that cause pain, stiffness, and swelling in joints. Rheumatoid arthritis is a disease that damages the lining surrounding our joints while also destroying our bones, tissue, and joints over time. Osteoarthritis is a progressive condition that slowly damages the cartilage surrounding the ends of bones and is common in the hip, knee, or spine. Oftentimes, joint replacement is recommended in these cases.

What is bursitis?
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The word arthritis literally means “joint inflammation.” Arthritis refers to a group of more than 100 rheumatic diseases and other conditions that cause pain, stiffness, and swelling in joints. Rheumatoid arthritis is a disease that damages the lining surrounding our joints while also destroying our bones, tissue, and joints over time. Osteoarthritis is a progressive condition that slowly damages the cartilage surrounding the ends of bones and is common in the hip, knee, or spine. Oftentimes, joint replacement is recommended in these cases.

What is cartilage?
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Bursitis is an inflammation or irritation of a bursa, which is a fluid-filled sac located around joints. Bursitis causes a reduction in or a loss of motion at the affected joint. Bursitis typically occurs in the heel, hip, knee, shoulder, or thumb.

What is a ligament?
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A ligament is an elastic band of tissue that connects bone to bone and provides stability to the joint.

What is a tendon?
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A tendon is a band of tissue that connects muscle to bone.

What is tendonitis?
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Tendonitis, medically known as tendinitis, is an inflammation or irritation of a tendon. Chronic strain, overuse or misuse of a tendon leading to a repetitive stress injury, or a serious acute injury can lead to a weakness, tear, or swelling of the tendon tissue, resulting in pain and stiffness near the tendon. Tendonitis usually occurs in the elbow, hip, knee, shoulder, thumb, or wrist, but can occur anywhere there is a tendon.

Should I use ice on my injury? Should I use heat on my injury?
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The general rule of thumb is to use ice in the acute stage of an injury (within the first 24-48 hours), or whenever swelling is showing. Ice helps to reduce inflammation and swelling by decreasing blood flow to the area that is injured. The general guideline is to apply ice indirectly (not directly on the skin) for 20 minutes, remove the ice for at least 20 minutes, and repeat as necessary.

Heat is used to increase blood flow, which helps promote pain relief after inflammation and swelling subside. Heat is also used to assist in warming muscles up prior to exercise, any physical activity, or physical therapy.

— FAQ: Orthopaedic Specialists —

What is an orthopaedic doctor? What is an orthopaedic surgeon?
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An orthopaedic doctor, also known as an orthopaedist, is a medical doctor (MD) or a doctor of osteopathy (DO) who specializes in the musculoskeletal system which includes bones, joints, muscles, ligaments, tendons, and nerves.

Orthopaedic surgeons are specialized in the musculoskeletal system. Many orthopaedists specialize in certain areas of the body, such as foot and ankle, hand and wrist, or back, neck, and spine. Additionally, orthopaedic doctors may focus on a specific field of orthopaedics, like pediatrics, sports medicine, or trauma.

What is the educational training of an orthopaedic surgeon?
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Board-certified orthopaedic surgeons have successfully completed a minimum of 13 years of formal education:

  • Undergraduate: Four years of study in a college or university
  • Medical School: Four years of study in a school of medicine
  • Orthopaedic Residency: Five years of study at a major medical institution

Board-Certified, Fellowship-Trained Orthopaedic Surgeons Have Completed:

  • Undergraduate: Four years of study in a college or university
  • Medical School: Four years of study in a school of medicine
  • Orthopaedic Residency: Five years of study at a major medical institution
  • Fellowship Training: One year of specialized education in an accredited fellowship program

 

All orthopaedic surgeons continue their medical education yearly to stay current in orthopaedic knowledge and skills.

What is a board-certified orthopaedic surgeon?
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Once a doctor has completed an orthopaedic residency at a major medical institution, the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery offers a written test to become board-eligible. If the written test is passed, the doctor becomes “eligible” to take the oral test, after two years in practice. When the doctor passes the oral exam, the doctor becomes “board-certified” and is considered a Diplomate of the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery.

The intent of the certification process, as defined by the board members of the American Board of Medical Specialties, is to provide assurance to the public that a certified medical specialist has successfully completed an approved educational program and an evaluation, including an examination process designed to assess the knowledge, experience, and skills requisite to the provision of high-quality patient care in that specialty.

What is a fellowship-trained orthopaedic surgeon?
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A fellowship-trained orthopaedic surgeon is a doctor who has completed a minimum of 13 years of education and has completed an additional year of specialty training in a specific field of orthopaedic surgery in an accredited fellowship program. There are fellowships in all several areas of orthopaedics: foot and ankle, hand and wrist, and back, neck and spine. Additionally, orthopaedic surgeons may focus on a specific field of orthopaedics, like pediatrics, sports medicine, or trauma.

What is a physiatrist (physical medicine & rehabilitation physician)?
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A physiatrist is a medical doctor specializing in nonsurgical pain management, physical medicine and rehabilitation, and neurological studies.

What is a primary care sports medicine doctor?
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A primary care sports medicine doctor is a leader in the field of sports medicine. Either through advanced fellowship training or through years of clinical experience, a primary care sports medicine doctor has learned the skills to take care of athletes of all ages, sports, and levels of competition. Primary care sports medicine doctors often serve as team doctors to professional sports teams or are personal doctors to elite level athletes.

What is a physician assistant?
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A physician assistant, commonly referred to as a PA, is a healthcare professional licensed to practice medicine with doctor supervision. Physician assistants can treat patients and write prescriptions. PAs are trained to recognize when patients need the attention of a supervising doctor or specialist. Physician assistants see patients in the office as well as assist the doctors in surgery.

What is a physical therapist?
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A physical therapist is licensed by the state and specializes in therapy programs for musculoskeletal injuries and disorders, sports injuries, postoperative rehabilitation, and massage therapy.

What is an occupational therapist?
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An occupational therapist is licensed by the state and specializes in the treatment of the upper extremity (hand, wrist, elbow, and shoulder) and work injuries. The services provided by occupational therapists include patient education, joint range of motion, adaptive techniques, splinting, and workplace evaluations.

— FAQ: Test & Treatment Definitions —

What is arthroscopic surgery?
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Arthroscopic surgery is a surgical procedure that is commonly performed to diagnose and treat problems within the joint. By using high-tech cameras, the orthopaedic surgeon inserts a small instrument, called an arthroscope, into the joint.

The arthroscope contains a fiber optic light source and small television camera that allow the surgeon to view the joint on a television monitor and diagnose the problem, determine the extent of injury, and make any necessary repairs.

What is a bone density scan?
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A bone density test is used to diagnosis osteoporosis, which is a disease that causes weakening of the bones that can ultimately result in fractures. In the past, osteoporosis could only be detected after a person’s bone broke. By using a bone density test, it is possible to know one’s individual risk of breaking bones before one breaks.

A bone density test uses X-rays to measure the amount of calcium and other bone mineral packed into the segment of bone. Common areas that are tested using a bone density scan include the spine, hip, and forearm.

What is a cortisone injection?
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Corticosteroids, more commonly referred to as cortisone, are steroids that are produced in the body naturally. Synthetically produced, they can also be injected into soft tissues and joints to help decrease inflammation.

While cortisone is not a pain reliever, pain may diminish as a result of reduced inflammation. In orthopaedics, cortisone injections are commonly used as a treatment for chronic conditions such as bursitis, tendonitis (medically referred to as tendinitis), and arthritis to reduce swelling, pain, and joint stiffness.

What is a CT scan?
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A computed tomography (CT) scan, also known as CAT scan, produces images that are similar in detail and in quality to an MRI. However, the CT scan takes a 360-degree picture of internal organs and the spine and vertebrae. CT scans provide cross-sectional views of the body and provide clearer imaging than an MRI.

What is an epidural?
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An epidural is a steroid injection used to help decrease the inflammation of spinal nerves to help relieve pain in the neck, back, arms, and legs from conditions such as herniated disks, spinal stenosis, and radiculopathy. Cortisone is injected directly into the spinal canal and some patients only need one injection to relieve pain. However, it normally requires two or three injections to provide significant pain relief.

What is a fusion?
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A fusion is a procedure in which bones are fused together with bone grafts and internal devices (such as metal rods and screws) to heal into a single solid bone.

What is internal fixation?
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Internal fixation is a treatment to hold pieces of a broken bone in the correct position with metal plates, pins, or screws while the bone is healing.

What is joint replacement surgery?
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Joint replacement surgery is a surgical procedure that is performed to replace an arthritic or damaged joint with a new, artificial joint, called a prosthesis. Joint replacements can be performed on every joint in the body, but most commonly performed in the knee, hip, shoulder, and elbow.

Joints contain cartilage, a soft, rubbery gel-like coating on the ends of bones, where they articulate, that protects joints and facilitates movement and over time, or if the joint has been injured, the cartilage wears away and the bones of the joint start rubbing together. As the bones rub together, bone spurs may form, and the joint becomes stiff and painful. Most people have joint replacement surgery when they can no longer control the pain with medication and other treatments and the pain is significantly interfering with their lives.

What is an X-ray?
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An X-ray is a procedure performed that uses a safe form of radiation to provide a two-dimensional picture of your body to use as a screening tool to evaluate for causes of many common disorders, such as bone breaks, joint and spine injuries or conditions, and arthritis or osteoporosis.

What is an MRI?
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Magnetic Resonance Imaging, commonly referred to as an MRI, is an advanced technology that uses magnetic fields and radio waves (like microwaves and the AM and FM bands on your radio) to visualize the inner workings of the body.

The pictures produced by MRI help the radiologist clearly and accurately detect and define the differences between healthy and diseased tissues, especially in the soft tissues. It can reveal many health problems at their earliest, most treatable stages.

What are NSAIDS?
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Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are non-prescription, over-the-counter pain relievers such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen sodium. They are popular treatments for muscular aches and pains, as well as arthritis and help in reducing swelling, pain, and joint stiffness.

What is osteotomy?
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Osteotomy is a procedure to correct bone deformity by cutting and repositioning the bone.

What is outpatient surgery?
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An outpatient surgery is a surgery that does not require the patient to stay in the hospital overnight; it is commonly known as an ambulatory surgery. Outpatient surgery has grown in popularity due to the improvement in technology.

What is soft tissue repair?
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Soft tissue repair is a treatment to mend or fix soft tissues, such as tendons or ligaments.

— Tips for Healthy Joints —

Since they are the connections between your bones, your joints will sustain a certain amount of wear and tear as you age. Remaining pain- and arthritis-free requires practicing good joint preservation techniques. The following techniques will help you to treat your joints with care as they age.

Movement

Every day, move each joint through its full range of motion to sustain mobility and freedom from pain. Make sure your movements are slow and gentle to avoid injury, and be careful not to overextend.

Use

Be sure to extend and flex your joints in the manner for which they are intended. Avoid overextending or stressful positions as well as techniques that could put you at risk for injury.

Posture

The manner in which you carry your body has a significant impact on whether your joints will remain pain-free. Practice good posture by adjusting work spaces to your specifications. Avoid back pain by picking items up using your legs, not your lower back. When carrying heavy objects, be sure to cradle the items close to your body.

Play Favorites

Favor the larger joints. Use the weaker joints for for only the duties they can handle. Using your hands, carry objects palm open to help distribute weight equally over your forearm. If available, make use of surfaces around you. Instead of lifting an object, slide the object across a surface like a table or work bench.

Stay Active

Avoid keeping your joints in the same position for a prolonged period of time. This will help to keep your joints from becoming stiff. In situations where this cannot be avoided, such as car rides, take a break every hour to stretch and adjust your seating position.