When it comes to treating foot and ankle injuries or conditions, it can be difficult to determine whether a visit to a podiatrist or an orthopedist is the best course of action. Often, it can depend on the nature of your foot or ankle injury. Both types of doctors specialize in the musculoskeletal system, but they focus on different areas. In this article, we’ll explore the differences between podiatrists and orthopedists and help you determine which type of doctor is best suited for your particular foot or ankle issue.
First, let’s define these two medical specialties. Podiatrists are doctors of podiatric medicine who focus on the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of foot and ankle problems. They’re trained to treat conditions ranging from bunions and hammertoes to sports injuries and diabetic foot care. Podiatrists often treat conditions unrelated to the foot, such as lower back pain or knee pain, as issues in the feet or ankles can cause these problems. Some of the common conditions that podiatrists treat include:
Podiatrists can also provide preventive care, such as custom orthotic inserts and recommendations for proper footwear. They’re often the first point of contact if you’re experiencing foot or ankle issues, and they can refer you to an orthopedist if they deem it necessary. If you’re in need of a podiatrist, Dr. Lisa Schoene has over 30 years of experience practicing podiatric medicine. She has extensive athletic training experience and has worked with many athletes throughout her career, including runners and dancers, and was part of the U.S.A. medical team in the 1996 Olympics.
Orthopedists, on the other hand, are medical doctors or doctors of osteopathic medicine who specialize in the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of musculoskeletal disorders. This includes conditions that affect the bones, joints, muscles, ligaments, tendons, and nerves. Orthopedists often treat more complex or severe conditions, such as fractures, osteoarthritis, and spinal deformities. Some of the specific conditions orthopedists treat are:
While orthopedists treat a wide range of musculoskeletal conditions, they’re not as specialized when it comes to the treatment of foot and ankle issues compared with podiatrists. As a result, orthopedists may refer patients with foot or ankle issues to a podiatrist for more specialized care.
When it comes to choosing a doctor to treat your foot or ankle issue, this decision is often a bit more complicated. Both podiatrists and orthopedists are trained in the diagnosis and treatment of musculoskeletal conditions, but their areas of expertise differ slightly. So, which type of doctor is better for treating foot and ankle issues — a podiatrist or an orthopedist? The answer ultimately depends on the specific nature of your injury or condition. Here are a few general guidelines to help you make the best decision for your specific case:
A podiatrist is the best choice if you’re experiencing pain, swelling, or other problems with your feet or ankles. Podiatrists are experts in the anatomy and function of the foot and ankle and can handle a wide range of conditions that affect these areas. If you have a foot or ankle injury that requires surgery, a podiatrist may be the best choice for you. Podiatrists are trained in surgical procedures that are specific to the foot and ankle, such as bunion removal and tendon repair. If you’re experiencing symptoms related to the following conditions, you should consider seeing a podiatrist:
If you have a more complex or severe musculoskeletal condition, such as a fracture or osteoarthritis of the other parts of the body, an orthopedist may be the best choice. Orthopedists are trained in a variety of surgical and non-surgical treatments for conditions that affect the entire musculoskeletal system. If you have a condition that affects multiple areas of your body, such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus, an orthopedist may be the best choice for you. These conditions can cause inflammation and pain in multiple joints, and an orthopedist is trained to evaluate and treat your entire musculoskeletal system.
If you have any of the following conditions, an orthopedist may be the right person to address them:
It’s important to note that both podiatrists and orthopedists are qualified to treat a wide range of musculoskeletal conditions. In some cases, you may need to see both types of doctors for a complete evaluation and treatment plan. For example, if you have a foot or ankle injury that requires surgery, you should see a podiatrist as they have numerous years of surgical expertise, and a general orthopedist does not traditionally do foot surgery.
If you’re unsure which type of doctor you need to visit, it’s a good idea to consult with your primary care physician. They can help you determine the best course of treatment and refer you to the appropriate specialist.
In conclusion, podiatrists and orthopedists are both qualified to diagnose and treat musculoskeletal conditions. However, they have different areas of expertise and focus on different parts of the body. A podiatrist is the best choice if you’re experiencing foot or ankle problems. If you have a more complex or severe musculoskeletal condition, an orthopedist may be the best choice for you. Remember, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to addressing issues with your lower extremities, and in some cases, you may need to seek the advice of both an orthopedist and a podiatrist.