Should I see a Podiatrist or an Orthopedist?

18 Sep

fractured ankle bruising swellingWell, that explains the excruciating pain and the baseball-size swelling in your ankle after you jumped off the trampoline…

Your family physician just pointed to a dark line on your x-ray which shows a fracture of your ankle. She suggests you see a specialist, but will she recommend an Orthopedist or a Podiatrist? Which should you choose?

The difference between an orthopedist and a podiatrist

An Orthopedist is devoted to the diagnosis and treatment of your entire body’s musculoskeletal system: the interworkings of the bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints. Some orthopedists specialize in treating the foot and ankle, while others focus on hands, shoulders, spine, hips, etc. If you choose an orthopedist, make sure that they specialize in foot and ankle.

A Podiatrist is a Doctor of Podiatric Medicine, who is trained intensively in the care of the feet, ankles, and lower legs. Podiatrists are also trained in the biomechanics of the foot and ankle and are trained to fit orthotics, custom shoes, braces, and similar devices. Additionally, some Podiatrists are Podiatric Surgeons, who can perform foot and ankle surgery in a hospital setting when necessary.

A Doctor of Podiatric Medicine (DPM) is the foremost medical and surgical specialist of the foot and ankle and is the only medical specialist educated, trained, licensed, and certified for exclusive treatment of the foot and ankle.

Podiatric Surgeons complete a 3 year hospital based residency which includes training in all aspects of foot and ankle surgery. There are some that choose to complete a 1 year fellowship to further focus on areas such as diabetic limb salvage or sports injuries of the foot and ankle. But not all Podiatrists choose to perform all types of foot and ankle surgery just as not all Orthopedic Surgeons choose to perform back surgery vs knee surgery.

Just as with any physician, you should always make your choice based upon their reputation.

The human foot and ankle is one of the most intricate and complex anatomical structures in your body, marrying the precision of a Swiss watch with the structural strength of a cantilever bridge. Your foot is a complex apparatus of 26 bones (one-quarter of all the bones in the human body), 33 joints and more than 100 ligaments and tendons, all linked and served by a vast network of nerves, muscles, blood vessels, soft tissue and skin. All of these parts work in unison to provide the support, strength, flexibility and resiliency needed for actions most of us take for granted, such as balance, walking, running and jumping.

Podiatric surgeons provide comprehensive medical and surgical care for a wide variety of common and complex foot and ankle conditions that affect children, adults and the elderly. They are uniquely qualified to detect the early stages of diseases that show warning signs in the toes, foot, ankle or lower leg, such as diabetes, arthritis and cardiovascular disease. Early diagnosis and treatment by podiatric physicians may save patients from amputation, restore mobility or prevent other serious health problems.

3 Responses to “Should I see a Podiatrist or an Orthopedist?”

  1. lauren bodde June 30, 2013 at 1:27 am #

    Hi there my name is lauren i have been suffering with an injury for 12 months now first was diagnosed with a stress fracture as per bone scan went to see a podiatrist he ruled out stress fracture but could not put his finger on what it is went back to my doctor to then have a ultrasound that then diagnosed me with synivitis of the second mp joint had two cortisone injections within 6months apart helped a little but was just a bandage tried orthotics metatarsal domes still not good then got a referal from my doc to see a orthapedic surgon who tells me i have plantar digital neuroma and will possibly need surgery i dont know because some orthopedic surgons can be surgery crazy should i go and see a podiatrist again different one to maybe see what he says or ???

    • eastpennfoot July 1, 2013 at 9:20 am #

      Lauren: Plantar Digital Neuroma is also known as Morton’s Neuroma, which you can read about here: Our suggestion would be to see a podiatric surgeon, not an orthopedic surgeon. This would be the medical professional best qualified to accurately diagnose your condition and suggest treatments. If you live in the Lehigh Valley, we’d be happy to see you. If not, then your insurance provider can recommend. Good luck!

  2. James Norris November 30, 2012 at 12:53 pm #

    This has gone pretty far. People need to be careful about how long they wait to get these situations treated by a podiatrist. They actually can lose their foot if they do not do something about this.

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