French physician Nicholas Andry coined the term orthopedics in 1741 as a union of the Greek words ortho (straight) and pedics (children). The term later applied to doctors specializing in the treatment of disabled children.
Today, orthopedic doctors treat injuries or issues of the spine and joints that often result from birth defects, injuries or aging. These physicians mainly attend to broken bones from sports injuries and other accidents and illnesses that affect the joints and bones, such as arthritis and osteoporosis and bone tumors.
Orthopedic doctors treat patients in many different settings, such as in hospitals and medical centers, private surgical centers, trauma centers and their own private practices. Many of these physicians specialize even further in areas of treatment or choose to work especially with children, aging patients or athletes. Others may work specifically with spinal disorders, plastic surgery, knee- and hip-joint analysis and replacement, foot injuries and hand surgery.
Physical therapists, a type of orthopedic specialist, treat a wider population of patients by helping strengthen the body's 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.