When to See a Podiatrist vs. Orthopedist
A podiatrist and an orthopedist can both treat conditions of the foot and ankle. However, neither specialist should be chosen to treat every condition of the foot. While there are several similarities between a podiatrist and an orthopedist who specialize in foot care, the differences between the two may be more important when choosing a specialist to treat your condition.
Do I Need a Podiatrist?
A podiatrist is a doctor who specializes in the care of conditions related to the foot, ankle, and related leg structure. They treat conditions both medically and surgically. A certified podiatrist may perform surgery, treat injuries, and prescribe medications and physical therapy. They also treat ongoing conditions that commonly cause foot pain.
Conditions Commonly Treated by Podiatrists
Many conditions of the foot, ankle, and lower legs are treated by podiatrists. They do perform surgeries and take care of injuries that occur in feet and ankles. However, there are also many conditions that develop over time which can be treated by your podiatrist. Some more common conditions include:
- Ingrown toenails
- Nail or foot infections
- Heel spurs
- Dry or cracked heel skin
- Flat feet
- Muscle or ligament pain in the foot
Do I Need an Orthopedist
An orthopedist is a medical doctor who specializes in the care of conditions related to the musculoskeletal system. The musculoskeletal system is made up of bones and the soft tissue that connects and supports your skeleton. An orthopedist treats conditions that affect bones, joints, ligaments, tendons, cartilage, and muscles throughout the body. However, some orthopedists specialize in conditions of the foot.
Foot and Ankle Conditions Commonly Treated by an Orthopedist
Some foot problems are caused by conditions in other parts of the body. Pain caused by conditions of the foot and ankle may have a different underlying cause, like a problem with your hips, knees, or back. You may be referred to an orthopedist if your foot pain is caused by nerve damage related to a spinal condition. Additionally, your podiatrist may refer you to an orthopedic specialist if your foot pain is difficult to diagnose. Orthopedists specialize in the musculoskeletal system, so they don’t treat conditions of the skin or toenails. However, like podiatrists, they do treat injuries and perform surgeries on the foot, ankle, and lower legs. Some foot conditions treated by orthopedists include:
- Achilles tendon injuries
- Flat feet
- Fractures and sprains
- Joint pain
- Nerve disorders
Choosing Between an Orthopedist and Podiatrist
Conditions of the foot and ankle can severely impact your quality of life. Your feet must support the weight of your entire body. Foot pain can make working, driving, and even personal activities difficult or impossible. Whether your condition arose suddenly or grew worse over time, understanding the underlying cause can be difficult.
Many of the conditions treated by podiatrists and orthopedists overlap. The doctor you choose might be simply the one who makes you most comfortable. Podiatrists and orthopedists both diagnose conditions of the foot, ankle and lower leg. If your podiatrist thinks your condition would be better treated by an orthopedic surgeon, they will likely be able to offer a recommendation. An orthopedist who specializes in foot conditions often works closely with podiatrists as well. Getting a diagnosis is the first step to finding the proper treatment for any condition.
The City Hospital of White Rock has a complete line of diagnostic and treatment services for your foot and ankle conditions. The first step to getting back on your feet is to find the right doctor. Contact us today to learn about the right specialist to get you on the right track to heal your foot pain.