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.