What is a non-surgical orthopedic doctor?

Did you know that most injuries or issues that present at an orthopedic clinic do not require surgery? In fact, it is estimated that 90% of patients with an orthopedic injury or chronic musculoskeletal issue can be successfully treated with non-surgical treatment options by a non-surgical orthopedic doctor.

Some orthopedic physicians dedicate their practice to non-surgical treatment options, while others decide to become orthopedic surgeons. So who should you choose if you need to see an orthopedic specialist?

Non-Surgical Orthopedic Doctor

A non-surgical orthopedic doctor is typically board certified in Family Medicine, Internal Medicine, Emergency Medicine or Physical Medicine/Rehabilitation. They have additional training in the diagnosis and treatment of musculoskeletal injuries, but focus solely on treating those issues without surgery.

Non-surgical treatment options often include:

  • Initial diagnosis and imaging
  • Oral anti-inflammatories or other medications
  • Steroids or cortisone injections to reduce pain and inflammation
  • Viscosupplementation — gel shots that act as lubrication for a joint
  • Orthotics, bracing or casts
  • Physical therapy programs
  • Regenerative medicine, including stem cell therapy and platelet rich plasma injections

The goal of the non-surgical orthopedic specialist is to help the patient avoid surgery, understanding that the more invasive (surgical) the treatment option, the more tissue is disrupted and there is more potential for more complications than with therapy or an injection.

However, some musculoskeletal issues or sports injuries do require surgery. These include acute injuries like complete ligament tears, recurrent dislocations and displaced fractures, as well as chronic conditions like arthritis that have not responded to conservative treatments.

Orthopedic Surgeons

An orthopedic surgeon shares much of the same education and training as a non-surgical orthopedic specialist, but has received additional training in surgical treatment options. Orthopedic surgeons are typically board certified in orthopedic surgery and may be fellowship trained in a certain surgical speciality, such as hand surgery or joint replacement.

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