Orthopaedics is the name given to the branch of medicine – including surgery – dealing with issues relating to muscles, joints, and bones. An orthopedic doctor manages orthopedic disorders affecting muscles, joints and bones. Disorders patients present with could be due to injury (such as fractures, dislocations or torn muscles), or due to illness or progressive disorders including tumours, arthritic conditions and worn joints, and infections.
Thankfully, medicine has moved on somewhat since mediaeval battlefield treatments, which often involved soaking bandages in blood – usually from horses – to form rudimentary splints; not particularly hygienic if the army surgeon was treating an open wound, as was common with battlefield fractures! Later developments, however, wouldn’t be unfamiliar to modern orthopaedic surgeons. For example, a shoe to help manage club foot deformities was in place by the late 18th century, and, thankfully for those needing splinting, Plaster of Paris casts were in common use by the mid-19th century.
Modern Orthopaedic Treatment
Modern treatments can involve surgical and non-surgical options; the most common surgical options might involve complete replacement of joints, such as knee, hip and shoulder, and procedures such as carpal tunnel release or tendon repair. Physiotherapy, analgesia, splints, and even weight loss options are often employed either alone, or in conjunction with surgery to aid recovery.
When orthopaedic problems present, the first port of call is usually your GP. However, waiting times for musculoskeletal issues can be lengthy, as unless the issue is a tumour or an otherwise life-altering one, time is not necessarily of the essence. The average waiting time from GP referral to the start of treatment can be as long as 18 weeks for non-urgent cases. Additionally, even if your problem is getting worse, it may not be possible to bring your appointment forward. At that point, you might want to consider private orthopaedic care. Healthcare insurance is a sensible precaution even if you aren’t self-employed; few employers can afford to have key members of their workforce absent from the workplace for longer than is absolutely necessary.
Many orthopaedic issues will require ongoing management – for example, both rheumatoid and osteoarthritis will require continued monitoring from specialists, and may occasionally require additional treatment options. Even conditions which are ‘fixed’ with surgery, such as joint replacement and carpal tunnel procedures will need physiotherapy to help the patient adjust; all things that would benefit from private orthopaedic care in terms of speeding up your recovery. Other items such as specialist mattresses, shoe inserts and resting splints may also be suggested to help you with ongoing management, and preventing further issues.
Prevention is Better than Cure
As with any medical problem, prevention is better than cure – taking care to warm up and cool down property when exercising can help to avoid common sports injuries, and proper set up of workstations can help to avoid repetitive strain injuries, and some back and neck problems. It’s worth noting that without changing behaviours, joint and muscle problems rarely go away on their own, so consulting your GP sooner rather than later will help to avoid what may be more invasive procedures later on.