Who is an Orthopedic Doctor? - What do They do

Medically Reviewed by Dr. Aman Priya Khanna
Written by Shivani Arora, last updated on 7 November 2022| min read
Who is an Orthopedic Doctor? - What do They do

Quick Summary

  • Orthopaedics is a branch of medicine that deals with the musculoskeletal system.
  • Orthopaedic doctors are specially trained to diagnose and treat musculoskeletal problems.
  • Some of the conditions that orthopaedic doctors treat include fractures, dislocations, sprains, strains, and arthritis.
According to World Health Organisation (WHO), almost 1.7 billion people suffer from musculoskeletal problems globally. Although many tend to consult their general physician for every ailment, sometimes specialised attention is necessary. An orthopaedic doctor can provide that special attention when dealing with musculoskeletal problems. 

In this blog, we’ll take a deeper look into what orthopaedics is, what is an orthopaedic doctor, what orthopaedic doctors do, and the conditions they treat.

What is Orthopaedics?

Orthopaedics is a field of medicine that deals with the care of the musculoskeletal system. The musculoskeletal system mainly consists of bones, muscles, joints, ligaments and tendons.
A person who is specialised in orthopaedics is known as an orthopedist. They use surgical and non-surgical techniques to treat musculoskeletal-related conditions, which include sports injury, joint pain, and back pain.
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Education to become an Orthopaedic Doctor

To become an orthopaedic doctor, a person must:
  1. Complete higher secondary schooling in science, with biology as the main subject.
  2. Graduate from an accredited medical school (recognised by the Medical Council of India) with a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) degree. MBBS is for 5.5 years which comprises 4.5 years of academic studies and a one-year internship.
  3. Graduate with an MD (Doctor of Medicine), MS (Master of Surgery) or a DNB (Diplomate of National Board) in orthopaedics.
  4. After completing this postgraduate degree, one can practice as an orthopaedic surgeon.

What do Orthopaedic Doctors do?

The job of an orthopaedic doctor, often referred to as an orthopaedic surgeon focuses on musculoskeletal issues. They are responsible for the following:
Initially evaluating the situation and diagnosing the musculoskeletal problem affecting the patient.
  1. Providing the best treatment options. The orthopaedic doctor may not recommend a surgical option unless mandatory due to the increased risks and associated costs.
  2. Helps in rehabilitation that helps the patient regain flexibility, strength, and range of motion after an accident or surgery. 
  3. Strategies to prevent the worsening of chronic conditions such as arthritis. 
All orthopaedic doctors have great knowledge about all the musculoskeletal parts. However, some of them choose to specialize further. These specialists include:
  1. Spine
  2. Hip and knee
  3. Hand
  4. Shoulder and elbow
  5. Foot and ankle
  6. Sports medicine
  7. Trauma surgery

Conditions Treated by Orthopaedic Doctors

Orthopaedic doctors/surgeons help manage a wide range of musculoskeletal problems, such as:
  1. Fractures or broken bones (such as a broken wrist or fractured ankle).
  2. Muscle strains
  3. Multiple types of chronic joint and back pain
  4. Orthopaedic conditions such as osteoporosis, bursitis, and arthritis.
  5. Injuries to tendons or ligaments, such as sprains, tendonitis, and ACL tears
  6. Limb abnormalities, such as clubfoot and bowlegs
  7. Issues like carpal tunnel syndrome 
  8. Serious issues like bone cancer

What Type of Procedures do they do?

Orthopaedic doctors are trained specialists in providing the best treatment for the musculoskeletal problem diagnosed. The type of treatment includes non-surgical and surgical treatments. 

Non-Surgical Treatment Methods

Some of the non-surgical alternatives recommended by orthopaedic doctors are
  1. Exercises: Specific exercises and stretches recommended by the orthopaedic doctor help improve strength, flexibility, and range of motion, thus reducing pain.
  2. Immobilization: Orthopaedic doctors, in some cases, use immobilization techniques such as braces, splints, and casts to prevent additional stress in the injured area and also for fast recovery.
  3. Medications: Moderate swelling and pain can be managed with the help of over-the-counter medicines such as analgesics, anti-inflammatory drugs or corticosteroids.
  4. Lifestyle Changes: The orthopaedic doctor may also help the patient make modifications in his/her lifestyle to prevent the worsening of the injury. These lifestyle changes include physical activities and dietary habits.

Surgical Treatment Methods

In case the condition is not healing by medications and exercise, the orthopaedic doctors may then suggest surgery to the patient. Some common surgical operations done by an orthopaedic doctor are as follows:
  1. Arthroscopic surgery: In this surgery, an arthroscope (instrument with a camera) is used to visualise the inside of the joint. They're commonly performed for the treatment of meniscus tears, Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) tears, and rotator cuff tears.
  2. Replacement of joint: Total joint replacement, also known as arthroplasty, refers to replacing the worn-out cartilage and bone tissues with a prosthesis. Hip and knee replacement surgeries fall under this category. These surgeries have a very high success rate, and the patient may resume his/her daily activities within a few days.
  3. Osteotomy: It refers to the cutting off of a bone followed by its repositioning. For example, the osteotomy is a possible treatment option for patients with early osteoarthritis. In such patients, only one side of the knee joint is affected. 
  4. Fracture repair surgery: This is one of the most common surgeries orthopaedic surgeons perform. In fracture repair surgeries, the surgeon approximates the bones and uses nails and plates to hold them in one place.
  5. Repair soft tissues: These surgeries treat damaged ligaments, tendons, and muscles. One popular example is the tearing of the anterior cruciate ligament in footballers. 
  6. Repair disc prolapses: Disc prolapse is a common problem many people in India face. The disc is the strong connective tissue between the vertebrae (bones forming the spine). Due to unexpected, heavy pressure on the spine, the discs can get prolapsed, resulting in back pain or neck pain, depending upon the location. 

Common Points to Remember while Choosing an Orthopaedic Doctor

It is essential to keep a few points in mind while looking for an orthopaedic doctor. These include:
  1. Try to get referrals from your friends, family or co-workers. This will give you a headstart for starting your research on orthopaedic doctors. 
  2. Once you get the names, look out for their previous work experience and credentials. If the doctor has already treated conditions similar to yours, he can treat you too. 
  3. Search for reviews given by previous patients, as it can be a reliable way to know about the doctor. 
  4. Researching the doctor extensively is necessary for one’s safety. This will ensure that the treatment goes on properly and gives a positive outcome.

When to see an Orthopaedic Doctor?

The following symptoms are frequently encountered and indicate seeking help from an orthopaedic doctor:
  1. Pain in one or more joints that persists for more than 3 to 5 days
  2. Swelling that persists for more than 3 to 5 days
  3. Decrease in mobility and problems in continuing day-to-day work
  4. Tingling or numbing sensation, which is often caused by nerve damage
  5. Fractures due to road traffic accidents or sports


Now that you’re well informed about what orthopaedic is and who are orthopaedic doctors/surgeons, you can make an informed decision according to your health condition are experiencing. You can ask your primary healthcare provider to refer you to an orthopaedic doctor. 

You can also contact our team to know more about what an orthopaedic doctor does. HexaHealth ensures every patient gets the deserved medical help. We have a network of qualified orthopaedic doctors and medical experts to help you during difficult times. Contact us and book an appointment TODAY!

Frequently Asked Questions

Orthopaedic doctor provide preventive as well as medical treatment options for problems related to the musculoskeletal system. 
Doctors who specialise in treating disorders related to the musculoskeletal system are called orthopaedic doctors. The difference is in terms of specialising in a particular area.
If you have prolonged discomfort in any of your bones, joints, or muscles due to injuries or accidents or some unknown reason, you may be referred to an orthopaedic.
An orthopaedic doctor diagnoses health conditions related to the musculoskeletal system. These include joint pain, hip and knee pain, osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis, etc.
An orthopaedic appointment generally involves the evaluation of the medical history of the patient. Following the required tests (such as MRI, X-ray, etc.), the orthopaedic doctor will analyse the results and provide a solution to your medical issue.
Dress comfortably for your appointment with an orthopaedic doctor. Wearing loose clothes can help expose the area for inspection easily. Sometimes, you may also be required to change into a robe that would be provided to you by the hospital staff. 
Yes, an orthopaedic doctor does treat back pain. Back pain arises primarily due to damage to muscles, ligaments, or bones. 
An orthopaedic doctor provides services to restore body health in case of any medical problem related to the skeletal system and its interconnecting parts. They treat injuries and issues of bones, ligaments, joints, tendons or muscles. 
Orthopaedics treats body parts including bones, muscles, ligaments, tendons, and joints. Every part of the musculoskeletal system falls under their expertise.
An orthopaedic condition can be defined as one which affects any part of the skeletal system and its interconnecting parts. This commonly includes bones and joints. Such conditions include arthritis, ligament tear, bone fracture, etc.
No, an orthopaedic doctor does not recommend surgery every time. In fact, surgery is the last resort in most cases. Surgery is suggested only when the non-surgical options (for example, physical therapy and medications) fail to work.
Orthopaedic disability reforms to a deformity associated with bones, joints, muscles, or any other part of the musculoskeletal system. Examples include rheumatoid arthritis, muscular dystrophy, etc.
Orthopaedic doctors are basically those doctors who specialize in injuries of the musculoskeletal system. This includes bones, joints, ligaments, tendons, and nerves.
Some of the common orthopaedic problems include bone fractures, arthritis, soft tissue injuries, ligamentous sprains, joint stiffness, etc. 
Chronic orthopaedic problems are those which last more than a year and usually can’t be permanently cured. Some examples include arthritis, osteoporosis, and fibromyalgia. Such problems can only be kept under control by orthopaedic doctors or surgeons. 
Generally, orthopaedics opt for non-invasive options to avoid surgery. Some of these options include muscle relaxants, pain medication, physical therapy, etc. The orthopaedic doctor might suggest exercises such as pilates, stretching, and yoga. 
Some of the essential questions to ask your orthopaedic doctor are as follows:
  1. Which food items to avoid and what to consume?
  2. Are there any medications I should avoid while on treatment? 
  3. Any side effects of the orthopaedic treatment?
  4. How to prevent future orthopaedic diseases?
Orthopaedic specialists may use either surgical or non-surgical treatments to resolve medical issues related to skeletal and its interconnecting parts. Surgical treatment options include joint replacement, bone fusion, etc. Non-surgical treatment methods include oral or topical medications, physical therapy, steroid injections, etc.
Leg swelling and pain are often the results of injured tissues or joints in the leg. All of these problems can be treated by an orthopaedic doctor. Hence you should see an orthopaedic doctor, commonly called a bone doctor for such symptoms. 
Before an orthopaedic doctor checks out the injury or issue, the doctor will do some basic physical tests. These include checking blood pressure so that the doctor can rule out other possible diseases relating to blood pressure.

Updated on : 7 November 2022

Disclaimer: The information provided here is for educational and learning purposes only. It doesn't cover every medical condition and might not be relevant to your personal situation. This information isn't medical advice, isn't meant for diagnosing any condition, and shouldn't replace talking to a certified medical or healthcare professional.


Dr. Aman Priya Khanna

Dr. Aman Priya Khanna

MBBS, DNB General Surgery, Fellowship in Minimal Access Surgery, FIAGES

12 Years Experience

Dr Aman Priya Khanna is a well-known General Surgeon, Proctologist and Bariatric Surgeon currently associated with HealthFort Clinic, Health First Multispecialty Clinic in Delhi. He has 12 years of experience in General Surgery and worke...View More


Shivani Arora

Shivani Arora

BA Journalism and Mass Communication

2 Years Experience

She is an accomplished new-age professional who has interviewed prominent personalities such as Bhaichung Bhutia, G. Sathiyan, Shashi Tharoor, etc. A content writer interested in health communication, graphic desi...View More

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