How to Choose Between an Orthopaedic Surgeon or Podiatrist

MAY 23, 2018

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The foot is one of the most complex parts of the skeletal system with 26 bones, 33 joints and more than 100 muscles, tendons and ligaments. Your foot alone contains almost 25% of all bones in your body.

Both orthopaedic surgeons and podiatrists specialize in foot and ankle care. If you have a problem with your foot or ankle, you may be wondering who you should see for treatment. How can you determine who is best for you?

Conveniently, the new Foot and Ankle Center of Harvard Medical Faculty Physicians in Dedham brings together orthopaedic and podiatric experts all under one roof. Here, our specialists collaborate on your care to give you a more complete diagnosis and access to a wider range of treatments.

Read below for an overview of each specialty.

Orthopaedics

Orthopaedics is the medical specialty devoted to the diagnosis, treatment, rehabilitation and prevention of injuries and diseases in your musculoskeletal system. After postgraduate orthopaedic residency training, foot and ankle orthopaedic surgeons complete an additional year of training for advanced foot and ankle reconstruction.

Some common conditions treated by foot and ankle orthopaedic specialists include:

  • Achilles tendinitis and tendinosis
  • Broken bones, stress fractures and sprains
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Ligament tears
  • Lisfranc injury (midfoot injury to ligaments and bones)
  • Metatarsalgia foot pain (ball of your foot)
  • Plantar fasciitis
  • Plantar fibroma and fibromatosis (benign nodules on the bottom of your foot)

“Because some foot and ankle problems originate from your knee, hip or lower back, orthopaedic surgeons will treat complex lower extremity conditions in conjunction with the rest of your body,” says John Kwon, MD, Chief of BIDMC’s Division of Foot and Ankle Surgery.

Podiatry

From day one of podiatric medical school and residency, a podiatrist’s emphasis is on the foot and ankle. “Podiatrists provide care for bones, soft tissues and joints of the foot and ankle, but also the skin conditions and abnormal mechanics of the lower extremity,” says John Giurini, DPM, Chief of the Division of Podiatric Surgery at BIDMC.

Conditions commonly treated by podiatrists include:

  • Arthritis, instability, pain, joint diseases
  • Calluses and ingrown toenails
  • Chronic wounds associated with diabetes or other illnesses
  • Deformities of the feet (bunions, hammertoes)
  • Fallen arches
  • Heel pain, bone spurs, neuromas and plantar fasciitis

Both podiatrists and orthopaedic surgeons are qualified to treat foot and ankle conditions, surgically and non-surgically. In general, the best bet is to choose the doctor you feel the most comfortable with, or who has the most experience treating your particular condition.

The new Foot and Ankle Center of Harvard Medical Faculty Physicians in Dedham brings leading experts in orthopaedic surgery and podiatry to your community. The center is staffed with specialists from both specialties delivering more complete diagnosis and treatment for your condition.

Learn more about the Foot and Ankle Center.

Above content provided by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. For advice about your medical care, consult your doctor.