Angie's LIST Guide to

Orthopedic doctors treat patients of all ages for injuries and conditions affecting the skeletal system, and associated muscles, joints and ligaments.


Orthopedic specialists treat joint problems and other issues involving the musculoskeletal system.

Orthopedic specialties

Orthopedic doctors treat patients for issues affecting the spine and joints resulting from a range of causes, such as birth defects, trauma, and conditions like arthritis that tend to increase in prevalence as a person ages. Physicians who specialize in orthopedics tend to broken bones from sports injuries and other accidents as well as illnesses that affect the joints and bones, such as osteoporosis and bone tumors.

Also called orthopedists, these doctors treat patients in many different settings, including hospitals, surgical centers and private practices. Some further specialize, treating mainly children, aging patients or athletes, or specializing in spinal disorders; plastic surgery; treatment of knee and hip issues, including joint replacement surgery.

Orthopedists may also refer patients to physical therapists, who treat a wider population of patients by helping strengthen muscles that affect the joints. They offer information on proper exercises and supplement treatment with heat, ice, electrical stimulation and ultrasound. Many patients see physical therapists rather than undergo surgery, as well as in addition to it.

Orthopedic surgeons

A growing number of orthopedic doctors perform surgery to combat a high prevalence of sports injuries and an aging population that seeks to remain active. Doctors in other health care fields often consult with orthopedists, as needed, to improve care their patients, such as for treatment of back pain.

Orthopedic surgeons perform many different kinds of procedures, such as replacing knee or hip replacement, ACL reconstruction and repair of other torn ligaments, resetting bones and treating soft tissue damage. Some perform surgeries on the feet and ankles or to correct damage to the spine.

Related: 5 questions for surgeons about hip replacements

Orthopedists also help patients by applying casts for broken bones and back braces on those with spinal injuries. They treat patients who are in pain because of carpal tunnel or repetitive motion injury from work or sports. Frequently, they see patients who have long-term health conditions, such as cerebral palsy, arthritis or brittle bone disease.

Qualifications of orthopedic doctors

It takes about 13 years of schooling to become an orthopedic physician: an undergraduate degree in the sciences, such as biology or chemistry, medical school, a five-year residency in orthopedics and possibly a one-year fellowship in an area of specialization.

If you think you need to see a local orthopedic doctor, start by asking your primary care physician for referrals. Check with your insurance to make sure it provides coverage for a particular doctor or practice in advance of setting an appointment. See their listed qualifications, accepted insurance plans and affiliated hospitals by consulting Angie's List. There, you'll also find member reviews and rankings for orthopedic doctors. 

When you meet with an orthopedist, ask about their experience, including in any area which they may specialize, and their approach to treatment. Expect a frank discussion of risks and benefits before undergoing any treatment or procedure. Look to for a doctor who will discuss preventive care, such as losing weight or exercising, that can make a major difference in a patient's recovery and long-term health.


Looking for an orthopedic surgeon for my ankle.

Looking for orthopedist @ Texas orthopedic Hospital in Houston,Texas. One that is familiar with total knee replacements for very active/still working mechanic.

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