What is orthopedics?

Hospitals have various medical specialties, of which orthopedics is one. If you have problems with your musculoskeletal system and support device, go to the orthopedist. Just think of scoliosis, deformities, bone fractures and osteoarthritis. In this article you can read more about orthopedics.

What is orthopedics?

Orthopedics is a term originating from ancient Greek. “Orthos” means straight and “paedos” child and therefore concerns the straight growth of a child, and therefore ultimately of a human being. Orthopedics concerns the musculoskeletal system and, in particular, abnormalities and disorders thereof. Examples include hip dysplasia, scoliosis and bone fractures.

The musculoskeletal system

The musculoskeletal system consists of all organs that ensure that humans can move. This includes the skeleton, but also the muscles that contract and stretch to make us move. The musculoskeletal system can actually be divided into two categories.

  • The passive musculoskeletal system: These organs provide support and allow movement through the joints. This concerns the skeleton and the connective tissue capsules.
  • The active musculoskeletal system: These organs cause movement by contracting. This concerns the skeletal muscles.


Orthopedics is practiced by the orthopedic surgeon. This is also called an orthopedist or orthopedist. This is actually a specialist in the field of bones, tendons and muscles. If someone has problems with movement, the orthopedist will treat and guide this person. This may involve an adjustment in daily life as well as a surgical procedure.

Which diseases and conditions?

The orthopedic surgeon deals with all kinds of abnormalities of the support and musculoskeletal system. For example, you can think of scoliosis . This is the curvature of the back and occurs in 4 out of 100 people. The curvature around the axis of the spine can cause a hunchback. A distinction is made between S-shaped scoliosis and C-shaped scoliosis. The first has two bends, the second has one.

Another abnormality is hip dysplasia . This hip dislocation or infant hip is the most common congenital defect in Europe. The hip joint is insufficiently developed because the cup-shaped part of the pelvis (acetabulum or hip socket) is still too flat. The upper part of the femur (femoral head or femoral head) is therefore insufficiently held in the acetabulum. In hip dislocation, the most serious form of hip dysplasia, the femoral head is completely (or partially) outside the acetabulum. People

also go to the orthopedist for fractures or broken bones. Bone fractures are simply about the lack of continuity of the bone. There is a crack or entire pieces are broken. Bone fractures can be caused by an accident but also by repetitive strain (for example in athletes). There are different types of fault lines:

  • Flexion: Over transverse length of the bone
  • Rotation: When one part of the body is stuck and another part is still making a rotating movement
  • Compression or crushing: Due to a fall or crushing of the bone
  • Pulling on a ligament/avulsion: When pulling on a ligament, the bone will break down rather than the ligament, causing a bone fracture

In addition, there may be position abnormalities and joint abnormalities. In addition, wear and tear can occur, which is referred to as osteoarthritis. More articular cartilage is then lost than is created. The fluid in the joint, synovium, is also reduced and this fluid is necessary for smooth movement of the joint. Osteoarthritis mainly occurs in the hands (the PIP and DIP joints), knees, neck, shoulders and hips.

Which treatments?

Of course, preference is given to conservative treatment. These are treatments such as giving advice, a referral to a physiotherapist or prescribing medication. Someone can also be given a brace.

It is also possible to undergo surgery. This often concerns more complex cases or more serious matters. If the hip or knee is worn out, advice is not sufficient (only pain relief is possible, it cannot be cured) and an artificial joint, called a prosthesis or endoprosthesis, is placed, for example. An orthosis is an externally worn aid to correct a misalignment. When a body part is actually replaced, it is a prosthesis. If a prosthesis is completely hidden in the body, it is also called an implant.

Common prostheses include the arm prosthesis, hand and foot prosthesis, the leg prosthesis, but also a hearing aid and new teeth. And many people already have a prosthesis, such as contact lenses and glasses. You also hear more and more about hip prostheses or an artificial hip. Prosthetics do not last forever and sometimes need to be replaced.

Inadequate or late treatment of certain conditions can also cause premature wear and tear (arthrosis) later in life.