What is the Difference Between a Podiatrist and Orthopedic Doctor?

We often see the question floating around “what is the difference between a Podiatrist and an Orthopedic doctor?”. To your surprise, the answer is there are actually more similarities than differences, but the differences are important to note.


Podiatrist


As we’ve explained in our first article, a Podiatrist is a doctor of Podiatric Medicine, a Physician, and Surgeon who treats the ankle, foot, and other related structures of the leg. Not only do Podiatrists treat injuries, but they also treat ongoing complications related to health issues. Some common conditions they treat are corns, calluses, bunions, as well as various foot alignments such as tumors, ulcers, fractures, skin or nail diseases.

Podiatrists are doctors and they go through years of schooling and residency programs to become experts specifically on the foot and ankle. This is where they learn about a variety of fields like anesthesiology, internal medicine, infectious disease, surgery, ER, and pediatrics.


Orthopedic Doctor


Orthopedics is a medical specialty that focuses on the diagnosis, correction, prevention, and treatment of patients with skeletal deformities - disorders of the bones, joints, muscles, ligaments, tendons, nerves and skin. Orthopedic doctors treat people of all ages and conditions. Most orthopedic doctors practice general orthopedics, while some specialize in treating the foot, hand, shoulder, spine, hip, knee, and others in pediatrics, trauma or sports medicine.


Orthopedic doctors go through years of schooling and residency, just like all medical professionals, but their areas of expertise are broad unless they decide to further specialize their practice. About 50% of the orthopedist’s practice is non-surgical and the other 50% goes to necessary surgical management.


Similarities


As we stated before, these two doctors do indeed have similarities. For starters, they are both highly-qualified specialists. They both are required to attend years of rigorous schooling to ensure they are experts in their fields. They also both go through residencies, where they gain hands-on experience to further solidify their knowledge.

They also both have the knowledge required to diagnose conditions and injuries related to the foot and ankle.


Differences


Some of the key differences between a Podiatrist and Orthopedic doctor are the fact that a Podiatrist only specializes in the foot and doctor. Unless an Orthopedic doctor decides to further specialize in that area of the body, the extent of their knowledge on the feet and ankles is not as in-depth as a Podiatrist.


Podiatrists also expand their area of expertise to the bones, joints, soft tissues, dermatology, and biomechanics of the feet and ankle. An Orthopedic doctor will only focus on the bones, joints, soft tissues, and if the complication or injury related to other areas of the body. So, in a situation where someone is experiencing problems with walking, an Orthopedic doctor will be needed if these complications are related to the hip, back, spine, or any other part of the body.


Which Doctor Should You See?


Overall, a Podiatrist and Orthopedic doctor are similar in some ways, but they each serve their own unique purpose. If you are still not sure of which one to see for feet and ankle complications or injuries, your best bet is to visit a Podiatrist first so they can determine if it really is the foot or ankle creating the problem.


For more information, feel free to reach out to any of our offices or use our contact form to get in touch!

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