Orthopedics is a branch of medicine devoted to diagnose, treat, rehabilitate and prevent injuries and diseases of the musculoskeletal system of the human body, through orthopedic surgery, appliances (orthotics) or physical exercises. The musculo-skeletal system is made up of bones, joints, ligaments, tendons, and muscles allowing the support, protection, stability and movement of the human body.
Like any other medical specialist, orthopedic specialists are qualified to provide general practices, but may specialize in a specific limb: foot, hand, shoulder, spine, hip, knee, as well as in pediatrics, trauma or sports medicine.
The knee is the largest joint in the body; it is formed by the lower end of the femur, the upper end of the tibia and the kneecap. The ends where these three bones make contact are covered with cartilage, a smooth substance that protects bones and allows them to move easily. The articular menisci are located between the femur and the tibia. These C-shaped wedges act as “shock absorbers” which quilt the joint. Long ligaments hold the femur and tibia together and provide stability. The long thigh muscles give the knee strength. All other knee surfaces are covered by a thin lining called synovial membrane. This membrane releases a fluid that lubricates the cartilage, reducing friction to almost zero in a healthy knee. Normally, all these components work in harmony. But disease or injury can distort this harmony, resulting in pain, muscle weakness and reduced function.
The shoulder is made up of three bones: the arm bone (humerus), the wide and nearly flat shoulder bone (scapula) and the collar bone (clavicle).
The head of the arm bone fits into a rounded cavity of the scapula called the glenoid. A combination of muscles and tendons keeps the arm bone centered on the shoulder socket. These tissues or tendons are called “rotator cuff” and cover the humeral head and join it to the shoulder blade.
Most shoulder problems fall into four main categories: tendon inflammation or tear (bursitis or tendinitis), instability, osteoarthritis, fracture (broken bone)
The hip is one of the largest joints of the body. It is a ball joint formed by the acetabulum, which is part of the large bone of the pelvis. The spheroid part is the femoral head, the upper end of the thigh bone. Bone surfaces are covered with articular cartilage, a soft tissue that lines and cushions the bone ends and enables them to move easily. The hip joint is surrounded by a soft tissue called the synovial membrane. In a healthy hip, this membrane generates a small amount of fluid that lubricates the cartilage and eliminates almost all the friction during the hip movement. Tissue bands called ligaments connect the head to the cavity and provide stability to the joint. The most common cause of chronic hip pain and disability is arthritis. Osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and post-traumatic arthritis are the most common forms of this disease.