Orthopaedic Surgeon: Definition, Training and Specialization

What is an orthopaedic surgeon? If you are suffering from a medical condition involving bones, ligaments, tendons, muscles or joints, this is an important question. Beyond visiting a primary care physician, a trip to a board certified orthopaedic surgeon could make all the difference in healing successfully.

Definition of an Orthopaedic Surgeon

An orthopaedic surgeon is a physician trained in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of diseases and conditions of the musculoskeletal system. These conditions often involve injuries of the bones, ligaments, tendons and muscles.


All orthopaedic surgeons have completed a four-year degree at a college or university as well as a four-year medical degree. Further, orthopaedic surgeons have completed a residency program, commonly a five-year stretch of concentrated study in orthopaedics. Beyond residency, many orthopaedic surgeons complete one additional year of specialized training in an area such as shoulder and elbow or foot and ankle.

The rigorous educational requirements for orthopaedic surgeons provide the basis for their practice. However, beyond this process is a very important step of completing board certification.

Board Certification

Becoming board certified by the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery is very involved. The process includes a peer-review process as well as completing both oral and written examinations demonstrating a mastery of orthopaedic knowledge. If you are seeking an orthopaedic surgeon, finding one that is board certified is a wise choice to ensure the best care.

Orthopaedic Surgeon Specializations

If you have a specific injury or condition, it can be beneficial to narrow your surgeon search to a specialized doctor. Here are some of the common types of specialized orthopaedic surgeons:

If you are in need of an orthopaedic surgeon, the best thing you can do is research your options. Consult your primary care physician for a referral and ask around to trusted friends or family for recommendations. Be sure to check with your insurance company to understand your options.



Tennis Elbow: Diagnosis, Treatment and Prevention

Tennis elbow, clinically known as lateral epicondylitis, is not always an athletic injury. Do not be fooled by the name. This painful issue plagues a variety of people, many of whom have never even picked up a racket.

Tennis elbow is a very common injury caused by overuse of your arm and hand muscles. The repetitive motion that tennis players employ can result in this condition. However, anyone that engages in a similar movement of the forearm can suffer from this injury.

Diagnosing Tennis Elbow:

Unless you are a trained medical professional, it is not a good idea to self-diagnose your symptoms. Seeking the opinion of an orthopaedic surgeon will ensure that you get the proper diagnosis and treatment. If you suffer from the following symptoms, you should consult your doctor:

  • Experiencing pain on the outside, lateral, area of the elbow.
  • Experiencing pain when lifting objects.
  • Experiencing pain when grasping or squeezing objects.
  • Experiencing pain when shaking hands

Treating Tennis Elbow:

Once you have been diagnosed with tennis elbow, the next step is alleviating the pain and healing the injury. Again, consult a physician about your injury to ensure you are addressing the correct problem. Some methods for treating tennis elbow include:

  • Rest your arm/forearm. This may seem simple but avoiding the repetitive motion that caused your injury will prevent further damage and allow the area to heal.
  • Ice the affected area. Never apply ice directly to the skin. Use a cold compress or ice pack to soothe the painful part of your arm.
  • Use nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, also known as NSAIDS, as directed on the bottle. You can also try Aleve or ibuprofen.
  • Physical therapy exercises may increase strength and alleviate symptoms.

Preventing Tennis Elbow:

If you have suffered from tennis elbow at some point or feel that you are at risk of this injury due to your activity, here are a few steps to avoid future symptoms:

  • Stretch before engaging in repetitive motion with your arm or forearm  before starting a new activity.
  • Take breaks as often as possible if you are doing an activity that requires repetitive motion of the arm.
  • Do strengthening exercises as recommended by a physician or physical therapist.
  • Cease or decrease activity at the first signs of injury.
  • Massage your arm and forearm often to gently work the muscles on the top of your forearm.

Work-related Injury:

For the recreational athlete, taking a break from activity to heal tennis elbow isn’t a terrible inconvenience. However, if your injury is work-related, your options for treatment may seem limited. Housekeepers, painters, mechanics and factory workers are just a handful of employed individuals that are not necessarily able to take a break and heal. If this is the case for you, make sure to see a board certified orthopaedic surgeon to assess all treatment options.