There are many health care professionals who play a role in your bone and joint health. Depending on your situation and needs, the members of the team may vary. You have an important role to play too. Be involved in the process, it will improve your chances of success. Ask questions and voice your concerns, ask for information about your diagnosis, treatment alternatives and the course of care, especially expectations for surgical outcomes. Always be honest and complete when you talk with your doctor. Share your point of view and don’t hold back information.
Family Physician or General Practitioner
Family physicians possess unique attitudes, skills, and knowledge which qualify them to provide continuing and comprehensive medical care, health maintenance and preventive services to each member of the family regardless of sex, age or type of problem. Their background and interactions with the family mean they are the best qualified to serve as each patient’s advocate in all health-related matters, including the appropriate use of consultants, health services, and community resources.
For more information visit the Canadian Medical Association.
Your family doctor will be able to refer you to an orthopaedic practitioner to serve your needs, such as an orthopaedic surgeon or a physiotherapist.
An orthopaedic surgeon is a specialist of surgical treatment of the musculoskeletal system. Many orthopaedic surgeons specialize in certain areas, such as the foot and ankle, spine, hip or knee. Some also choose to focus on specific fields like pediatrics, trauma or sports medicine.
Orthopaedic surgeons manage medical issues of the musculoskeletal system, including:
- Diagnosis of your injury or disorder
- Treatment with medication, exercise, surgery or other treatment plans
- Rehabilitation by recommending exercises or physical therapy to restore movement, strength and function
- Prevention with information and treatment plans to prevent injury or slow the progression of diseases
For more information visit the Canadian Orthopaedic Association
If referred for surgery, discuss risks and possible complications with your surgeon. Learn what to expect before, during and after surgery.
Paediatric Orthopaedic Surgeon
Children have unique musculoskeletal conditions that may need to be treated by a specially trained orthopaedic surgeon. Paediatric orthopaedic surgeons are experienced to treat and evaluate bone, joint or muscle problems in a child who is still growing.
Conditions such as club foot, congenital dislocation of the hip (also known as developmental dysplasia of the hip or DDH), and infections in bones and joints (osteomyelitis) in children are common. Because children are still growing, their problems are different than those of an adult. Their body’s response to injuries, infections and deformities may be quite different than in a full-grown person. In fact, many of the problems children have with their bones and joints don’t even occur in adults.
Paediatric orthopaedists spend five years after medical school learning about all of orthopaedics (residency training). Then there is another year or more concentrating on the special problems and needs of children (fellowship training). It is often more difficult to examine, talk to and figure out what is wrong with children, compared with adults, especially when the child is very young.
Paediatric orthopaedists are experts in treating children due to their specialized training. A paediatric orthopaedists office is often set up specifically to deal with children and therefore is friendlier and less threatening to young patients. They also have a lot of experience taking care of anxious parents and grandparents, and know about the worry that goes along with having a child with an orthopaedic problem.
At the age of 18 a person who has received care through a paediatric orthopaedist must now seek a general orthopaedist. This is because upon age 18 you are no longer considered a child. Talk to your paediatric orthopod or family physician about a referral to ensure your needs are met for ongoing orthopaedic care.
Your family doctor may refer you, or you may refer yourself to a physiotherapist for conservative management of your orthopaedic problem. Physiotherapists are health care professionals trained to assess, diagnose, treat and prevent orthopaedic diseases or conditions. They use their expert knowledge of anatomy and human movement to treat conditions that are non-surgical in nature (such as sprains, strains, and other dysfunctions) using exercise, education, manual therapy and physiotherapeutic modalities. In addition, if you do require surgery, the physiotherapist will help you return to full physical function following your procedure.
For more information visit the Canadian Physiotherapy Association
A rheumatologist is a specialist in the medical (non-surgical) treatment of arthritis and the rheumatic diseases. A rheumatologist’s training includes four years of medical school, three or four years of internal medical training and at least two years of sub-speciality training in rheumatology.
For more information visit the Canadian Rheumatology Association
If you require surgery you may also encounter:
Orthopaedic Residents / Fellows
Residents are doctors who are in the midst of their orthopaedic training. Fellows are fully trained orthopaedic surgeons who are doing further training so that they can specialize in a specific area, such as foot and ankle, of orthopaedic care. You may be visited by residents / fellows if you receive your care at a teaching hospital.
For more information visit the Canadian Orthopaedic Residents Association
Before your operation you will meet the anesthesiologist. This doctor has the responsibility for your welfare when you undergo surgery and is a vital member of the surgical team. Anesthesiologists are physicians who have completed a university pre-medical program, followed by medical school and then five or more years of specialized (residency) training in anesthesiology. Anesthesiologists train extensively in human physiology (how the body works), particularly the brain, heart, lungs, kidneys and liver and are experts on the drugs that are used in anesthesia and intensive care medicine.
For more information visit the Canadian Anesthesiologists’ Society
Registered Nurse (RN)
Nurses are the heart of care, caring for the whole person – the physical, intellectual and social needs. Nurses plan and deliver health programs for individuals, families, groups or communities.
For more information visit the Canadian Nurses Association
The Orthopaedic Nurse is a registered nurse who, in addition to his/her general nursing knowledge, brings to his/her practice a specialized and expanding body of knowledge pertaining to the care of clients with, or with the potential for, challenges of the neuro-muscular and skeletal system.
For more information visit the Canadian Orthopaedic Nurses Association
Other Professionals you may encounter in the management of your orthopaedic condition are:
Occupational therapists work with you to identify and resolve challenges that prevent or limit you from your daily activities and make the most of your lifestyle. Treatment includes education, suggesting assistive devices or alternative approaches for self-care, homemaking, work tasks and leisure activities, making splints and orthotic devices and offering therapeutic activity to restore function.
For more information visit the Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists
Certified athletic therapists are trained professionals with expertise in the areas of injury assessment, prevention and rehabilitation, basic emergency care, education and total active care.
For more information visit the Canadian Athletic Therapy Association
Physician Assistants (PA’s) are highly skilled health professionals who practice in a physician extender role. They perform tasks similar to those performed by their physician supervisors, including examination, diagnosis, testing, referrals and treatment including prescribing. In Canada, the PA role was developed within the Canadian Forces Health Services to provide a full spectrum of medical care to its members. In 2003 the Canadian Forces PA program was accredited by the Canadian Medical Association.
NOTE: Only two provinces, Manitoba and Ontario, currently have Physician Assistants.
For more information visit the Canadian Association of Physician Assistants
Pharmacists are professionals responsible for the optimal use of drugs. A pharmacist works with their patients to determine if any drug-related needs exist which are preventing the patient from attaining their desired quality of life.
For more information visit the Canadian Pharmacists Association