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Jonathan Cluett, M.D.

"Is an orthopedist a foot doctor?"

By November 16, 2006

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I am often asked "what is an orthopedist?" Are you a foot doctor? A bone doctor? An orthopedist, also called an orthopedic surgeon, is a physician trained in the treatment of the musculoskeletal system (bones, joints, muscles, ligaments, tendons, and nerves). An orthopedist often treats foot problems, but many other problems as well!

The Greek word 'ortho' means straight and 'pedics' comes from the Greek 'pais' meaning children. For many centuries, orthopedists have been involved in the treatment of crippled children.

Orthopedic surgeons were the specialists who cared for the children who had crooked spines and other musculoskeletal deformities. Over the years, the field has expanded to encompass many subspecialties and the treatment of a wide variety of musculoskeletal disorders in patients of all ages.

A specialist in foot problems can either be an orthopedic surgeon who has specialized in the treatment of foot and ankle disorders, or a podiatrist. A podiatrist is a doctor who has gone to a podiatry school to train in the treatment of foot and ankle disorders.

Related: Information About the Specialty of Orthopedics

November 10, 2008 at 9:39 am
(1) Linda Chalmers says:

Why is it that comfort shoes always start in a 3 do shoe makers realise how many of the british population especially women have small feet? Come on shoemakers I challange you to provide comfortable shoes in sizes 1 – 3 including half sizes. Most of my problems with my feet are probably years of having to where shoes that are too big or too tight.

May 30, 2009 at 8:28 pm
(2) Bonnie Kenney says:

I have flat feel and they have ways hurt! but now my knees started to hurt with unbearable pain.(left)About 2 weeks ago. I started putting a knee bras on in tell my other (right) knee started to hurt! I don’t get how it could hurt. the only kind of sport i do is walking and running after my little girl. witch is about once a week! I was thinking about going to an orthopedist but I just don’t know! i don’t want to wast my time and money on doing something i don’t have too. What do you think?

July 15, 2009 at 8:23 am
(3) Patricia says:

Well an orthopedic can be called as a bone doctor and in that sense, he can treat your foot but a podiatrist is a foot specialist doctor who knows everything about foot care which an orthopedic doctor can’t.

July 22, 2010 at 8:15 am
(4) Bill Sargent says:

@ Bonnie Kenney : I think what you need more than knee bras is a good english dictionary and to learn to use punctuation. It was nearly impossible to read your comment.

February 9, 2013 at 7:23 am
(5) clare cropp says:

Bonnie I stumbled upon your post. I am a Podiatrist practicing in the UK. The knee pain you describe presents a common picture seen by podiatrists, where a person with particularly flat feet get to stage where the misalignment at the knee caused by foot posture has led to changes in the joint.

A podiatrist can assess your suitability for an insole in your shoes to redress foot posture and therefore alleviate knee, and lower back pain.

I have seen the correct orthotic prescription work pretty much immediately to alleviate this kind of knee pain. Good luck.

February 21, 2013 at 12:34 pm
(6) Marcia says:

Thirty-nine years ago, I was involved in an auto accident that involved multiple trauma. The least serious issue at the time was a crushed right heel. It was a year after the accident when I was able to address the ankle/foot issues. There were fusions done and transplanted ligaments, etc. to reduce the pain of loose bone fragments. Ultmately, I ended up with no internal or external rotation, and limited flexion and extension. I love ballroom dancing but, of course, with limited rotation, I am limited about what I can do. My fourth toe has dropped and, when barefoot, I often trip on it. Also, my great toe gets a tremendous amount of pressure, causing pain. I was wondering if there is a procedure that would increase rotation of the ankle, lessen the pressure on the great toe, and repair the 4th toe that has dropped.

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