Frequently Asked Questions:

At Barrington Orthopedic Specialists, we strive to provide our patients the specialized orthopedic care you deserve. Please use the links provided to access answers to frequently asked questions about orthopedics, orthopedic specialists, and common tests and treatment definitions.

What is orthopedics?

Orthopedics (alternatively, orthopedics) is a medical specialty focused on the diagnosis and treatment of conditions, disorders, and injuries of the muscles, bones, joints, tendons, ligaments, and nerves. A doctor who specializes in this medical specialty is called an orthopedic surgeon or orthopedist. Please click here to learn more about orthopedic surgeons and their training and specialization.

What is arthritis?

The word “arthritis” literally means “joint inflammation.” Arthritis refers to a group of more than 100 rheumatic diseases and other conditions that cause pain, stiffness, and swelling in joints. Rheumatoid arthritis is a disease that damages the lining surrounding our joints while also destroying our bones, tissue, and joints over time. Osteoarthritis is a progressive condition that slowly damages the cartilage surrounding the ends of bones and is common in the hip, knee, and spine.

What is bursitis?

Bursitis is an inflammation or irritation of a bursa, which is a fluid-filled sac located around and between joints. Bursitis causes a reduction in or a loss of motion at the affected joint. Bursitis typically occurs in the heel, hip, knee, shoulder, and thumb.

What is cartilage?

Cartilage is a soft, rubbery, gel-like coating on the ends of bones, where they articulate, that protects joints and facilitates movement.

What is a ligament?

A ligament is an elastic band of tissue that connects bone to bone and provides stability to the joint.

What is a tendon?

A tendon is a band of tissue that connects muscle to bone.

What is tendinitis?

Tendinitis, also spelled tendonitis, is an inflammation or irritation of a tendon. Chronic strain, overuse or misuse of a tendon leading to a repetitive stress injury or a serious acute injury can lead to weakness, a tear, or swelling of the tendon tissue, resulting in pain and stiffness near the tendon. Tendinitis usually occurs in the elbow, hip, knee, shoulder, thumb, and wrist but can occur in any tendon.

Do I use ice or heat on my injury?

The general rule of thumb is to use ice in the acute stage of an injury (within the first 24-48 hours) or whenever swelling is showing. Ice helps to reduce inflammation and swelling by decreasing blood flow to the injured area. The general guideline is to apply ice indirectly (not directly onto the skin) for 20 minutes, remove the ice for at least 20 minutes, and repeat as necessary.

Heat is used to increase blood flow, which helps promote pain relief after inflammation and swelling subside. Heat is also used to assist in warming muscles up prior to exercise, any physical activity, or physical therapy.

What is an orthopedic doctor? What is an orthopedic surgeon?

An orthopedic doctor, also known as an orthopedist, is a medical doctor (M.D.) or a doctor of osteopathy (D.O.) who specializes in the musculoskeletal system—bones, joints, muscles, ligaments, tendons, and nerves.

Orthopedic surgeons are specialized in the musculoskeletal system; many orthopedists specialize in certain areas of the body, such as foot and ankle, hand and wrist, back, or neck and spine. Additionally, orthopedic doctors may focus on a specific field of orthopedics, like pediatrics, sports medicine, or trauma.

What is the educational training for an orthopedic surgeon?

Board-certified orthopedic surgeons have successfully completed a minimum of 13 years of formal education:

  • Undergraduate: Four years of study in a college or university
  • Medical School: Four years of study in a school of medicine
  • Orthopedic Residency: Five years of study at a major medical institution

Board-certified, fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeons have completed:

  • Undergraduate: Four years of study in a college or university
  • Medical School: Four years of study in a school of medicine
  • Orthopedic Residency: Five years of study at a major medical institution
  • Fellowship Training: One year of specialized education in an accredited fellowship program

All orthopedic surgeons continue their medical education yearly to stay current with orthopedic knowledge and skills.

What is a board-certified orthopedic surgeon?

Once a doctor has completed an orthopedic residency at a major medical institution, the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery offers a written test to become board-eligible. If the written test is passed, the doctor becomes “eligible” to take the oral test after two years in practice. When the doctor passes the oral exam, the doctor becomes “board-certified” and is considered a diplomate of the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery.

The intent of the certification process, as defined by the board members of the American Board of Medical Specialties, is to provide assurance to the public that a certified medical specialist has successfully completed an approved educational program and an evaluation, including an examination process designed to assess the knowledge, experience, and skills requisite to the provision of high-quality patient care in that specialty.

What is a fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeon?

A fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeon is a doctor who has completed a minimum of 13 years of education and has completed an additional year of specialty training in a specific field of orthopedics in an accredited fellowship program. There are fellowships in several areas of orthopedics: foot and ankle, hand and wrist, back, and neck and spine. Additionally, orthopedic surgeons may focus on a specific field of orthopedics, like pediatrics, sports medicine, or trauma.

What is a physiatrist (physical medicine & rehabilitation physician)?

A physiatrist is a medical doctor specializing in nonsurgical pain management, physical medicine and rehabilitation, and neurological studies.

What is a primary care sports medicine doctor?

A primary care sports medicine doctor is a leader in the field of sports medicine. Either through advanced fellowship training or through years of clinical experience, a primary care sports medicine doctor has learned the skills to take care of athletes of all ages, sports, and levels of competition. Primary care sports medicine doctors often serve as team doctors to professional sports teams or are personal doctors to elite-level athletes.

What is a physician assistant (PA)?

A physician assistant, commonly referred to as a PA, is a healthcare professional licensed to practice medicine with doctor supervision. Physician assistants can treat patients and write prescriptions. PAs are trained to recognize when patients need the attention of a supervising doctor or specialist. Physician assistants see patients in the office as well as assist the doctors in surgery.

How do doctors and physician assistants work together?

The relationship between a physician assistant and his or her supervising doctor is characterized by mutual trust and respect; they function as a team in providing quality medical services. The physician assistant is a representative of the doctor and treats patients in the style and manner that has been developed and directed by the supervising doctor.

Physician assistants are colleagues of doctors. They work together to ensure access to quality healthcare in a cost-effective and timely manner. Their training includes anatomy, pharmacology, pathophysiology, clinical medicine, and physical diagnosis and treatment. This training is followed by clinical rotations. A physician assistant is a graduate of an accredited PA program and is authorized by the state or credentialed by the federal government to practice medicine as delegated by and with the supervision of a doctor. He or she is a highly qualified practitioner who is capable of functioning with autonomy as authorized by his or her supervising doctor.

What is a physician assistant’s scope of practice?

Doctors may delegate to PAs those medical duties that are within their scope of practice, training, and experience, which are permitted by state law.

Physician assistants provide a comprehensive range of medical and surgical services, which have traditionally been performed by doctors. PAs are trained to conduct physical examinations, diagnose illnesses, order and interpret X-rays and laboratory studies, write prescriptions, develop treatment plans, and instruct and counsel patients. They also treat injuries by suturing, splinting, and casting. Additionally, PAs are qualified to assist in surgery. These providers may see patients independently and/or directly with a doctor.

When might I see a PA at Barrington Orthopedic Specialists?

At the time of:

  • Initial visit
  • Follow-Up Care
  • Preoperative Visit
  • Emergency Room Visit
  • Cast Room Visit
  • Hospitalization
  • Surgery, in the Operating Room

You may see the doctor and his or her PA at the same visit. However, if you do not see the doctor, please know that the physician assistant discusses and reviews your case with his or her supervising doctor.

Will my insurance pay for me to see a PA?

It is customary for insurance to cover services rendered by physician assistants.

What is a physical therapist (PT)?

A physical therapist is licensed by the state and specialized in therapy programs for musculoskeletal injuries and disorders, sports injuries, postoperative rehabilitation, and massage therapy.

What is an occupational therapist (OT)?

An occupational therapist is licensed by the state and specialized in the treatment of the upper extremity (hand, wrist, elbow, and shoulder) and work injuries. The services provided by occupational therapists include patient education, joint range of motion, adaptive techniques, splinting, and workplace evaluations.

What is an X-ray?

An X-ray is a procedure that uses a safe form of radiation to provide a two-dimensional picture of your body to use as a screening tool in order to evaluate for causes of many common disorders, such as bone breaks, joint and spine injuries or conditions, and arthritis or osteoporosis.

What is an MRI?

Magnetic Resonance Imaging, commonly referred to as an MRI, is an advanced technology that uses magnetic fields and radio waves (like microwaves and the AM and FM bands on your radio) to visualize the inner workings of the body. The pictures produced by the MRI help the radiologist clearly and accurately detect and define the differences between healthy and diseased tissues, especially in the soft tissues. It can reveal many health problems at their earliest, most treatable stages. To learn more about what to expect during an MRI, click here.

What is a CT scan?

A computed tomography (CT) scan, also known as CAT scan, produces images that are similar in detail and in quality to an MRI. However, the CT scan takes a 360-degree picture of internal organs and the spine and vertebrae. CT scans provide cross-sectional views of the body and provide clearer imaging than an MRI.

What is a bone density scan?

A bone density test is used to diagnose osteoporosis, which is a disease that causes weakening of the bones that can ultimately result in fractures. In the past, osteoporosis could only be detected after a person’s bone had broken. However, by using a bone density test, it is possible to know one’s individual risk of breaking bones before a fracture occurs. A bone density test uses X-rays to measure the amount of calcium and other bone mineral packed into the segment of bone. Common areas that are tested using a bone density scan include the spine, hip, and forearm.

What are NSAIDs?

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are nonprescription, over-the-counter pain relievers, such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen sodium. They are popular treatments for muscular aches and pains, including arthritis, and they aid in reducing swelling, pain, and joint stiffness.

What is an epidural?

An epidural is a steroid injection used to help decrease the inflammation of spinal nerves in order to relieve pain in the neck, back, arms, and legs from conditions such as herniated discs, spinal stenosis, and radiculopathy. Cortisone is injected directly into the spinal canal, and some patients only need one injection to relieve pain. However, it normally requires two or three injections to provide significant pain relief.

What is a cortisone injection?

Corticosteroids, more commonly referred to as cortisone, is a steroid that is produced in the body naturally. Synthetically produced, it can also be injected into soft tissues and joints to help decrease inflammation. While cortisone is not a pain reliever, pain may diminish as a result of reduced inflammation. In orthopedics, cortisone injections are commonly used as a treatment method for chronic conditions like bursitis, tendinitis, and arthritis to reduce swelling, pain, and joint stiffness.

Orthopedic doctors provide both surgical and nonsurgical treatment options to patients. Many orthopedic conditions, disorders, and injuries can be treated with one or more forms of treatment options.

What is arthroscopic surgery?

Arthroscopic surgery is a surgical procedure that is commonly performed to diagnose and treat problems within the joint. By using high-tech cameras, the orthopedic surgeon inserts a small instrument, called an arthroscope, into the joint. The arthroscope contains a fiber optic light source and small camera that allow the surgeon to view the joint on a television monitor and diagnose the problem, determine the extent of injury, and make any necessary repairs.

What is a fusion?

A fusion is a procedure in which bones are fused together with bone grafts and internal devices (such as metal rods and screws) to heal into a single solid bone.

What is internal fixation?

Internal fixation is a treatment to hold pieces of a broken bone in the correct position with metal plates, pins, or screws while the bone is healing.

What is joint replacement surgery?

Joint replacement surgery is a surgical procedure that is performed to replace an arthritic or damaged joint with a new, artificial joint, called a prosthesis. Joint replacements can be performed on every joint in the body but are most commonly performed in the knee, hip, shoulder, and elbow.

Joints contain cartilage—a soft, rubbery, gel-like coating on the ends of bones—that protects joints and facilitates movement, and over time (or if the joint has been injured), the cartilage wears away and the bones of the joint start rubbing together. As the bones rub together, bone spurs may form, and the joint becomes stiff and painful. Most people undergo joint replacement surgery when they can no longer control the pain with medication and other treatments and the pain is significantly interfering with their lives.

What is osteotomy?

Osteotomy is a procedure to correct a bone deformity by cutting and repositioning the bone.

What is soft tissue repair?

Soft tissue repair is a treatment to mend or fix soft tissues, such as tendons or ligaments.

What is outpatient surgery?

An outpatient surgery is a surgery that does not require the patient to stay in the hospital overnight; it is commonly known as an ambulatory surgery. Outpatient surgery has grown in popularity due to the improvement in technology and the rise in outpatient surgery centers, known as ambulatory surgery centers (ASC).

What is an ambulatory surgery center (ASC)?

An ambulatory surgery center (ASC), also known as an outpatient surgery center or same-day surgery center, is a healthcare facility where surgical procedures that don’t require an overnight hospital stay are performed. The type of procedures performed in ASCs are broad in scope. However, several orthopedic procedures done today are performed in ASCs.