If you have any problems with your foot or your ankle, you may not be sure what kind of doctor you should see. There are a few who can help you with your problems but deciding between a podiatrist vs orthopedist can present certain challenges. This is a question that many people, all over the world, have trouble answering.
When you are looking at the “podiatrist vs. orthopedist question, it may be helpful to look at what they both are. Some of your decision making will be set by the kind of problem.
What is an orthopedic surgeon?
All orthopedic surgeons are medical doctors (MDs). They have gone through traditional medical school and then completed the orthopedic surgery residency. They are around to prevent, diagnose and treat injuries, disorders and conditions that impact the human musculoskeletal system. Your bones, tendons, muscles, joints, nerves and ligaments are all a part of this system.
Within the specialty of orthopedic surgery, there are sub-specialties. Different orthopedic surgeons will specialize in certain body parts. You would not see the same orthopedic surgeon for your ankle sprain that you might see for your fractured hip. These doctors can prescribe a wide array of treatments such as physical therapy, medications and, if they think it is needed, surgical intervention.
What do podiatrists do?
When a person goes into podiatry, they do to a different kind of medical school than orthopedic surgeons. Rather than having the medical doctor degree, when they have completed their education and training, they have doctorate in podiatric medicine, or DPM. These physicians are there to prevent, diagnose and treat all kinds of injuries, conditions and disorders that impact the foot and the ankle.
The overlap between podiatrists and orthopedic surgeons arises because podiatrists also deal with the musculoskeletal system as it is part of the foot and ankle. These doctors will prescribe physical therapy, medications and perform a host of surgeries. Some of these are needed as a consequence of an injury to the foot, lower leg or ankle. They are also able to help patients with a variety of injuries of the sort tissues and can help when reconstruction of the foot or ankle is needed.
Podiatrists are able to help patients who are suffering from vascular problems, skin issues and neurological conditions. These are things that are not covered by the practice of orthopedic surgery. Some conditions are diagnosed first because of problems that are first noticed as symptoms of the ankle and foot. Diabetes, peripheral vascular disease and come cancers are detected this way. This makes going to a podiatrist a very different experience. If you are looking for an answer to the podiatrist vs orthopedist looking at the reason for your visit may be the way to make the right decision.
How much education and training do they both get?
The eduction and training that is required to become an orthopedic surgeon or a podiatrist is extensive and very rigorous. In both instances, a person much complete their bachelor’s degrees (four years of undergraduate studies) and then they need to complete another four years of medical school. After they have received their degree from their respective medical school, both orthopedic surgeons and podiatrists complete a residency. For podiatrists, the residencies typically last for between three and four years. Orthopedic surgeons do a residency that is five years and they may continue afterwards with between one and two years of training to specialize even further.
When they are doing their training on the musculoskeletal systems of the foot and ankle, the training for the podiatrist vs orthopedist is very similar. The main difference is that the podiatrist focuses only on this part of the body whereas the orthopedic surgeon has to look at the musculoskeletal system all over the body.
So, where should you go for treatment for your foot and ankle problems?
When you have foot pain, what should you do with when you are looking to decide between the podiatrist vs orthopedist? Do some research and pick the kind of doctor that you think is best for you and the condition that you may have.