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Overview of orthopedics

Orthopedics is a medical specialty focused on treating conditions in the musculoskeletal system. The musculoskeletal system includes your muscles, joints, ligaments, tendons, nerves, and bones.

Orthopedic services at Dignity Health are dedicated to helping people of all ages live their best life, through the prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation of musculoskeletal injuries and diseases.

Dignity Health hospitals and outpatient clinics offer a wide range of orthopedic subspecialties, including hand surgery, sports medicine, pediatric orthopedics, and spine surgery. To learn more about our team of orthopedic surgeons and specialists, Find a Doctor near you.

Common conditions

While injuries from trauma or overuse are most common, orthopedic conditions are caused by diverse factors ranging from accidental injury to inherited genetic conditions. Common types of orthopedic conditions and injuries include:

  • Genetic abnormalities and congenital conditions, such as cerebral palsy
  • Diseases affecting the musculoskeletal system (e.g., bone tuberculosis)
  • Degenerative conditions such as arthritis
  • Age-related conditions such as osteoporosis
  • Bone tumors
  • Injuries such as fractures, dislocations, and ligament strains/tears (e.g., from falls, sports, car crashes, burns, etc.)
  • Amputation
  • Birth-related trauma

Orthopedic doctors at Dignity Health specialize in the prevention, diagnosis, noninvasive treatment and therapy, surgery, and rehabilitation for the following types of musculoskeletal conditions:

  • All forms of arthritis, including gout, rheumatoid arthritis, and osteoarthritis
  • Back and neck conditions
  • All types of deformities
  • Joint problems
  • Muscle conditions
  • Bone fractures, trauma, and injuries
  • Tumors (cancerous and noncancerous)

Common procedures and tests

Orthopedists often use non-surgical methods to manage musculoskeletal conditions. For example, new ways of treating arthritis often rely on medication or the injection of hyaluronic acid into joints to relieve pain.

Other conservative treatment approaches might include rest, over-the-counter pain medications, elevation, and icing to help reduce swelling and pain.

Orthopedic injury rehabilitation also often involves immobilization of the injury to allow the body to heal. After healing begins, rehabilitation may also include physical therapy exercises so that the muscles can regain strength and range of motion.

When injuries such as fractures or ligament tears can’t be addressed non-surgically, orthopedic surgeons can perform a wide variety of repairs. Some common orthopedic procedures are:

  • Arthroscopy, including any minimally invasive joint procedure to diagnose and treat problems inside joints
  • Internal fixation, where plates, pins, or screws are used to secure broken bones
  • Joint repair or replacement, including total or partial knee, hip, and shoulder replacements, and joint resurfacing (filling in damaged areas)
  • Non-surgical treatments, including exercise therapy, medications, injections, casts, splints, crutches, canes, walkers, and orthotics
  • Osteotomy, where a bone is cut, including bone repositioning to correct deformities
  • Soft tissue repair, including ACL repair, carpal tunnel release, and rotator cuff repair
  • Spinal surgeries, including disc removal or repair, spinal fusion, and removal of part of your vertebrae to relieve spinal pressure or nerve impingement (rubbing)

Almost all people are ultimately able to return to their normal activities following non-surgical or surgical orthopedic treatment.

Dignity Health offers expert and caring orthopedic treatment for a wide range of conditions. If you or someone close to you needs care for a joint, bone, or other orthopedic injury or illness, our clinics and hospitals support a number of specialties, including hand surgery, sports medicine, pediatric orthopedics, and spine surgery.

To learn more about our team of orthopedic surgeons and specialists, Find a Doctor near you.

The information contained in this article is meant for educational purposes only and should not replace advice from your healthcare provider.