Modern medicine is such a vast field of knowledge that specialisation is an absolute necessity. While we can trust our GPs (General Practitioners) to diagnose and treat basic conditions, we rely on them to refer us to those healthcare professionals who have specialised in specific functions or systems of the human body, or deal with defined illnesses, diseases, and conditions. One of these fields of specialisation would be general orthopaedics – an extensive area of expertise that is responsible for keeping us mobile and functioning. But what exactly is general orthopaedics?
Defining General Orthopaedics
General orthopaedics refers to the area of medicine that specialises in diagnosing, treating, and caring for patients with conditions, injuries, or disorders related to the musculoskeletal system of the human body. The elements that make up this system include the muscles, ligaments and tendons, the bones and joints, as well as the skin and nerves.
Surgeons who specialise in general orthopaedics may use surgery to treat disorders affecting the musculoskeletal system, but the treatment is not limited to surgery only. Treatment often also includes medicinal, physical, and rehabilitative methods in place of, or in conjunction with surgery to address various conditions.
In fact, it is estimated that the effort devoted to treatment or care extended by an orthopaedic surgeon’s practice is typically evenly split between actual surgery and related care and management, and non-surgery medical management of ailments and injuries.
These surgeons also often work very closely with a number of other specialists and healthcare professionals in the management of complex, multi-system conditions or trauma, and form an integral part of emergency care teams.
Most Common Conditions Treated by General Orthopaedics
As you can imagine, when we refer to disorders that affect the musculoskeletal system, this includes a vast array of conditions. The list of conditions below is not a comprehensive collection of treatments extended by orthopaedic surgeons, but rather a summary of the most common ailments, in order to illustrate the extent of their work and to create a picture of the function of these specialists for the reader:
- Ligaments that are torn, strained, or sprained – the ligament is the elastic tissue that stabilises a joint and connects the bones to each other
- Joint dislocations
- Bone fractures
- Injuries of the tendons – the tendon is the tissue that connects the muscles to the bones
- Pulled muscles
- Bursitis – a bursa is the fluid-filled sac which is found around joints; bursitis is the irritation or inflammation of this structure
- Ruptured discs in the spine
- Lower back pain
- Sciatica – a pain and/or feeling of numbness or weakness that extends from the lower back to the buttocks and leg along the sciatic nerve
- Scoliosis – a spine deformity or sideways curvature; occurs most often before or during the puberty growth spurt
- Hammer toes, bunions, knock knees, bow legs, club foot, and legs that are uneven in length
- Growth abnormalities and other abnormalities of the toes and fingers
- Bone tumors
- Muscular dystrophy
- Cerebral palsy – this refers to a group of disorders caused by brain damage that affects the ability of the patient to maintain their balance and posture, as well as restricts their ability to move normally
- Arthritis – this means inflammation of the joint and refers to an extensive range of rheumatic diseases and other conditions that are responsible for swelling, stiffness, and pain in joints
- Osteoporosis – this is a condition that causes bones to become weak and brittle often because of hormonal changes or a Vitamin D or calcium deficiency
Leading Specialists in The Field of General Orthopaedics in South Africa
Dr Jan de Vos is a leading orthopaedic surgeon in Pretoria that specialises in all hip, knee, and shoulder pathology. For more information on general orthopaedics, and to enquire about procedures, availability, and appointments, contact our office.