What Is an Orthopedic Doctor? What Do They Do?

Feb 15, 2022

Many people trust their primary care physician for everyday ailments like a cold or their annual physicals. But who do you turn to when you are experiencing chronic pain or suffered a recent injury? Your primary care physician may refer you to an orthopedic doctor if you are dealing with musculoskeletal pain from a car accident, sports injury, slip and fall, or another recent injury. They may also recommend you see an orthopedic doctor if you are dealing with pain in your joints that is getting progressively worse. Whether you are struggling with chronic joint pain or recently injured in a car accident, there are orthopedic doctors in Atlanta who can help you recover and work on your claims as well. Your first question might be, “So what does an orthopedic doctor actually do?” Here’s everything you need to know about orthopedic doctors and what you can expect from their treatment and care.

What Is Orthopedics?

Orthopedics is one branch of medicine that addresses a wide range of conditions, diseases, and injuries that impact the musculoskeletal system. The body’s musculoskeletal system is made up of bones, joints, muscles, tendons, ligaments, cartilage, and connective tissues. Your body’s bones make up the skeleton, a framework for how your muscles, ligaments, tendons, and other soft tissues all fit together. Your musculoskeletal system helps support your body’s weight, holds your body upright, and helps you move around throughout your day. Orthopedics is the study of how certain health conditions can impact the form, stability, and movement of the body. Injuries, health conditions, and diseases can all impact the healthy functioning of your musculoskeletal system, and orthopedic doctors go through extensive training and education to diagnose and treat these issues.

What Are the Training & Qualifications for an Orthopedic Doctor?

You might be surprised to learn that someone who wishes to become an orthopedic doctor will spend over a decade in education and training! In order to become an orthopedic doctor, a person must obtain an undergraduate degree, attend medical school, pursue a residency focused on orthopedics, and complete a fellowship in a subspecialty like joint replacement, sports medicine, or even pediatric orthopedics. An orthopedic doctor must also successfully complete a certifying examination in order to receive a board certification in orthopedic surgery. Orthopedic doctors must also complete continuing education while they are licensed and also renew their certification every ten years. Orthopedic doctors study the entire musculoskeletal system and learn how to diagnose and treat injuries and diseases that impact the entire body, along with establishing detailed knowledge and skill in their subspecialty.

What Does an Orthopedic Doctor Do?

Orthopedic doctors, also known as orthopedic surgeons, provide a range of treatment options for musculoskeletal conditions, from minimally invasive techniques to surgical interventions. An orthopedic doctor can diagnose injuries and diseases that impact the musculoskeletal system and develop a treatment plan to address the specific diagnosis. Orthopedic doctors treat people who have recently been injured in car accidents, motorcycle accidents, slip and fall accidents, and sports injuries. You may see an orthopedic doctor for rehabilitation after a recent injury or surgery or to help prevent the development or reoccurrence of certain musculoskeletal conditions.

What Type of Patients Do Orthopedic Doctors Treat?

Orthopedic doctors treat patients of all ages, including children, teens, and older adults. An orthopedic doctor may choose to specialize further in pediatric orthopedics, where they work primarily with children and teens under the age of 18 and their families. Pediatric orthopedics can help your child with a broken bone, growth challenges, and rehabilitation after a surgery or illness. Orthopedic doctors also treat subspecialties of people like car accident victims. Orthopedic doctors who specialize in car accident injuries are highly knowledgeable and skilled in diagnosing and treating injuries sustained in everything from a mild fender-bender to a multi-car pile-up. Orthopedic doctors can also specialize in sports medicine and work with professional athletes and weekend warriors of all ages to help recover from an injury or improve performance.

What Injuries Do Orthopedic Doctors Treat?

  • Broken Bones
  • Sprains and Strains
  • Joint Damage
  • Soft Tissue Damage
  • Spinal Injury
  • Overuse Injuries
  • Car Accident Injuries
  • Sports Injuries
  • Slip and Fall Injuries

What Diseases & Conditions Do Orthopedic Doctors Treat?

  • Arthritis
  • Chronic Back Pain
  • Joint Pain
  • Sciatica
  • Degenerative Disc Disease
  • Bone Tumors
  • Growth Abnormalities

Nonsurgical Treatment Options with an Orthopedic Doctor

When you visit an orthopedic doctor for treatment, they will want to explore nonsurgical treatment options with you. While orthopedic doctors are also called orthopedic surgeons, that doesn’t mean that every trip to their office will result in surgery. In fact, orthopedic doctors work with treatment techniques and strategies to help you avoid surgery and instead find lasting relief from more conservative approaches. Here are four examples of nonsurgical treatment options with an orthopedic doctor.

Pain Management

Your orthopedic doctor can provide you with a detailed plan for pain management to help you recover from an injury or deal with a health condition that is causing you pain. Pain management options may include over-the-counter medications to help relieve pain and reduce inflammation. Your orthopedic doctor may also write you a prescription for a medication to help with your pain while you recover. Other techniques to help with pain management for orthopedic injuries include techniques you can practice at home as well, like applying ice and heat. Cold and warm compresses can help alleviate pain naturally by addressing inflammation, restricting blood flow, and relaxing tense muscles.


If you recently suffered a broken bone or dislocation, then you may need to immobilize the area while you heal. An orthopedic doctor can put a cast on a broken bone to help keep the injured bone in place so that the healing can begin. Splints and braces can also help with damage or injury to joints and tendons. These supportive devices are typically less restrictive than a cast but also help prevent you from damaging the area further. In some cases, your orthopedic doctor may first have you wear a splint or brace on a broken bone until the swelling and inflammation goes down before applying a cast to the area.

Stretches & Exercises

Your orthopedic doctor can also walk you through stretches and exercises to help with your healing and recovery process. Contrary to popular belief, most musculoskeletal injuries do not require you to avoid all movement. In fact, getting moving again can help you avoid developing stiff and weakened muscles that can actually make your recovery time take longer. Gentle stretches and exercises with rehabilitation in orthopedics can help improve your strength and flexibility after an injury. Stretching and exercising throughout your recovery process can also help you to effectively regain your range of motion.

Lifestyle Changes

A musculoskeletal injury or health condition may also require you to make some lifestyle changes. Your orthopedic doctor can help you determine what type of lifestyle changes may be necessary, from changing your habits around physical activity to determining a diet to help better support your health. You may need to modify or change the way you exercise to avoid aggravating an injury and help prevent future injuries.

Surgeries Performed by an Orthopedic Doctor

In some cases, a musculoskeletal condition or injury may not be able to heal effectively with nonsurgical treatment options. When that is the case, your orthopedic doctor will talk to you about surgery. Depending on your injury or condition, your doctor may recommend a specific type of surgery, and the operation could be in-patient or outpatient. Orthopedic surgeons can perform a wide range of orthopedic surgeries to address musculoskeletal injuries and conditions. Here are examples of surgeries performed by an orthopedic doctor.

Joint Replacement

One of the most common surgeries associated with an orthopedic doctor is joint replacement surgery. The most common joint replacement surgeries are knee replacements and hip replacements. Damage to the joints over time or diseased joints may require a partial or full replacement in order for you to effectively recover. Joint replacement may also be recommended if you are dealing with advanced stages of arthritis and more conservative treatment options have not been successful.

Internal Fixation

Another common surgery performed by orthopedic surgeons is called internal fixation, though you might be more familiar with this as surgery to help fix a broken bone. When a simple cast isn’t enough to set a broken bone, you may require surgery known as internal fixation. This is where an orthopedic surgeon may need to use pins, screws, rods, or plates to set a broken bone and hold them in place for the healing process.

Neck & Spine Surgery

Orthopedic surgeons can also perform surgery on the spine. There are many different types of spinal surgeries, depending on your injury or condition. One example of spine surgery is called a fusion, where two bones are connected together surgically, and as the bone heals, it fuses to the other bone. Another example of spine surgery is a laminectomy, which is a procedure that can help treat spinal stenosis.

Soft Tissue Repair

Damage to soft tissues like ligaments, tendons, and muscles may also need surgery. Soft tissue repair can help with injuries like a torn muscle or tendon. One such example is tendon repair surgery, which can help restore healthy mobility to a damaged joint. An orthopedic surgeon can also perform a release surgery to help reduce pressure on the median nerve that is causing carpal tunnel syndrome.

When Should I See an Orthopedic Doctor?

If you recently suffered an injury to your musculoskeletal system, then you may want to see an orthopedic doctor for your treatment and recovery process. Orthopedic doctors specialize in these types of injuries and can work with you from diagnosis through treatment and recovery. If you were injured and went to an urgent care or emergency room, then you should consider an orthopedic doctor for your follow-up care. An urgent care or emergency room can provide you with an injury diagnosis and triaged care, but you will need to find a doctor for continued care as you heal and recover. Orthopedic doctors can help you recover from a wide range of injuries sustained in car accidents, while playing a sport, on-the-job accidents, or slip and fall accidents. Orthopedic doctors can also help with a wide range of health conditions, especially those that impact older-aged adults. Whether you are dealing with chronic pain, arthritis, or issues with mobility, an orthopedic doctor can help.

Finding an Orthopedic Doctor Near You

If you are looking for orthopedic doctors in Atlanta, then visit AICA Orthopedics near you. Our car accident clinic has several locations in metro Atlanta and outside the perimeter so that you can get quality and comprehensive care no matter where you live. At AICA Orthopedics, we have some of the best orthopedic doctors in Atlanta working alongside other multi-specialty doctors in neurology, chiropractic, physical therapy, and more. With multiple locations in Atlanta, our clinics also offer in-house diagnostic image testing like X-Rays, CT scans, and MRIs, so you can get the scans you need all in one convenient location. Our team of doctors aims to provide you with conservative treatment approaches when possible before resorting to more invasive surgical procedures. We work with you to develop a treatment plan that is personalized to you and your healthcare needs and support you through the entire recovery and rehabilitation process. Visit an AICA Orthopedics location near you or online to learn more about our talented team of multi-disciplinary doctors and how you can get started with an orthopedic doctor in Atlanta today!



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