What is Orthopaedics?
Orthopaedics is an area of medicine which specialises in diagnosing and treating problems affecting the musculoskeletal system. Orthopaedics aims to improve function, mobility, and overall quality of life through various treatments, such as orthopaedic surgery, medications, physiotherapy, and other lifestyle changes.
Orthopaedics primarily revolves around the following structures:
- Bones: Orthopaedics treats a wide range of bone-related conditions such as fractures, deformities, bone tumours, and infections.
- Muscles: Orthopaedics commonly treat conditions related to the muscles, including strains, sprains, and muscle tears.
- Ligaments and Tendons: Orthopaedics treats conditions related to the ligaments and tendons, such as anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears and tendonitis.
- Joints: A big part of orthopaedics involve the treatment of joint problems, including arthritis, bursitis, and joint instability.
- Nerves: Orthopaedics also treat nerve-related conditions involving the musculoskeletal system, such as nerve compression or injuries.
What are the Sub-Specialty Areas of Orthopaedics?
While orthopaedic doctors in Singapore have the knowledge and ability to treat all aspects of the musculoskeletal system, some choose to sub-specialise within the field. Some common sub-specialties of orthopaedics are:
- Spine: Spine orthopaedic doctors specialise in treating conditions and injuries affecting the spine, back, or neck due to trauma, disease, or degeneration. This includes arthritis in the spine, scoliosis, spinal deformities, and tumours.
- Hip and Knee: This sub-specialty focuses on addressing hip and knee issues, such as dislocations, fractures, hip dysplasia, and osteoarthritis. A hip and knee surgeon may also perform joint replacement procedures to restore function and alleviate pain.
- Shoulder and Elbow: Orthopaedic doctors in this area can manage all conditions related to the shoulders or elbows. They often treat conditions like rotator cuff tears, clavicle fractures, tennis elbow, and shoulder dislocations.
- Hand and Wrist: A hand and wrist orthopaedic doctor treats conditions, such as carpal tunnel syndrome, hand fractures, trigger finger, and sprains. They may recommend splints, medications, or surgeries to regain hand or wrist function.
- Foot and Ankle: Also known as podiatry, this specialty focuses on Achilles tendonitis, bunions, plantar fasciitis, and other foot and ankle problems. An orthopaedic surgeon may perform replacement surgery, correct fractures or deformities, and treat arthritis and diabetes-related conditions.
- Sports Medicine: The orthopaedic subspecialty of sports medicine specifically addresses sports-related injuries in athletes or active individuals, including ligament tears, stress fractures, and muscle strains.
- Musculoskeletal Oncology: Orthopaedic doctors focusing on musculoskeletal oncology diagnose and treat benign or cancerous tumours in bones and soft tissues. They work closely with oncologists to develop treatment plans that involve surgery or radiation therapy.
- Trauma Surgery: This sub-specialty focuses on the treatment of acute and traumatic orthopaedic injuries. Orthopaedic surgeons provide emergency care and perform procedures to stabilise and repair injured bones and tissues.
- Paediatric Orthopaedics: Paediatric orthopaedic doctors specialise in diagnosing and treating musculoskeletal conditions and injuries in children, including scoliosis, broken bones, cerebral palsy, and dysplasia.
Who are Orthopaedic Surgeons?
Orthopaedic surgeons are medical specialists trained to help patients with pain and mobility limitations caused by orthopaedic conditions. They diagnose the specific injury or disorder and develop a tailored treatment plan that involves surgical or non-surgical interventions, depending on the severity and type of the condition. In Singapore, one must be accredited by the Ministry of Health before they can qualify and practice as an orthopaedic surgeon.
When Do You Need to See an Orthopaedic Doctor?
It is recommended you visit an orthopaedic specialist clinic if you experience any of the following concerns or symptoms:
- Persistent joint pain, stiffness, or swelling
- Suspected fractures or broken bones
- Limited mobility
- Difficulty standing, bearing weight, or moving a limb
- Chronic musculoskeletal conditions, such as arthritis or tendonitis
- Deformities in bones or joints
- Instability or joint dislocations
- Nerve compression symptoms, such as numbness or tingling
How to Find the Right Orthopaedic Surgeon For You?
Choosing the right orthopaedic surgeon in Singapore is crucial to ensure optimal care and treatment outcomes. Here are some tips and factors to consider when looking for an orthopaedic surgeon:
- Ask for Referrals: Start by asking your GP for recommendations as they can offer valuable insights based on your medical history. You may also ask someone who experienced a similar condition to recommend an orthopaedic specialist in Singapore.
- Review their Qualifications: Research the educational background and credentials of the orthopaedic doctors and look for Ministry of Health accreditation in orthopaedic surgery as it indicates that they have met rigorous standards of knowledge and expertise.
- Check Surgeons’ Specialty and Training: Some orthopaedic surgeons have a special interest or sub-specialty expertise in more focused fields, such as sports medicine, spine surgery, hand and wrist surgery, and other areas. Assess whether their expertise and experience align with your condition or injury.
- Review Your Insurance Coverage: In order to reduce out-of-pocket expenses, be sure to check if the doctor is found in your insurance’s panel of doctors; or if the procedure can be covered by Medisave.
What Happens During an Orthopaedic Consultation?
During an appointment at an orthopaedic surgery clinic, you can expect the following:
- Medical History & Physical Examination: The orthopaedic doctor will carefully review your medical history, including any symptoms and injuries you have previously sustained. They will then conduct a physical examination to assess your musculoskeletal health, which may involve specific movements of the affected joints.
- Diagnostic Tests: If necessary, the doctor may order diagnostic tests, such as X-rays, MRIs, or blood tests to determine the severity of your condition.
- Discussion: The orthopaedic doctor will discuss the diagnosis and extent of your disorder or injury and address any questions or concerns you may have.
- Treatment Recommendation: Upon reviewing the examination and test results, the doctor can develop a personalised treatment plan that may include oral medications, injections, physiotherapy, and assistive devices. If non-surgical treatments fail, the doctor may then recommend a surgical procedure.
- Follow-Up Appointments: The orthopaedic doctor may arrange follow-up appointments to monitor your progress, adjust your treatment plan, or provide additional recommendations for rehabilitation to ensure your recovery.
What are Common Orthopaedic Injuries in Singapore?
Orthopaedic conditions occur due to accidents, injuries, or ageing and, if left untreated, can lead to chronic pain and a hindrance in daily activities. There are several common injuries or conditions related to the musculoskeletal system. These include:
- Lower Back Pain: Lower back pain is a common orthopaedic problem that ranges from mild discomfort to severe pain. This may be due to a muscle strain in the area, sciatica, poor posture, and more.
- Knee Injuries: Athletes and older adults more commonly experience knee injuries, such as ACL or meniscus tears, due to degenerative joint disease, overuse, or trauma.
- Hip Fracture: Fractures of the hip joints are common in older individuals due to weakened bones and osteoporosis. This condition may also arise following a severe impact or sudden fall.
- Arthritis: Arthritis causes pain, inflammation, and stiffness in and around the affected joints. The risk of developing this condition increases with age. Women are more susceptible to arthritis than men.
- Plantar Fasciitis: Plantar fasciitis refers to the rupture or inflammation of the tissue that connects the heel to the ball of the foot, known as the plantar fascia. It causes pain, especially when waking up and taking the first steps.
- Scoliosis: Scoliosis is a spinal deformity that often resembles an S or C shape. This abnormal curvature can make individuals appear to be leaning to one side.
- Hamstring Injuries: Hamstring-related injuries are common among athletes, particularly runners, football, and soccer players. These injuries usually involve injury to the hamstring muscles on the back side of the thigh.
- Fractures: Fractures are the partial or complete breakage of the bone due to a fall, trauma, or a direct blow to the body.
- Bursitis: Bursitis occurs when the bursa, a fluid-filled sac that protects and reduces friction between tissues, becomes inflamed due to overuse, infection, or other underlying conditions, such as arthritis and tendonitis.
Who Should Undergo Orthopaedic Surgery?
Orthopaedic surgeons evaluate each case individually and consider factors such as the patient's overall health, age, and specific condition before recommending surgery (or other non-surgical treatments). Some common indications for orthopaedic surgery are:
- Severe or persistent pain that lasts for several weeks or months
- Significant functional limitations and difficulty with movement
- Failed conservative treatments, such as ice packs or over-the-counter medications
- Conditions that require surgical intervention to prevent further damage, such as osteoarthritis, bone fractures, and severe tendon and ligament injuries
What are Possible Risks of Orthopaedic Surgery?
While orthopaedic surgery is generally safe, especially when performed by an experienced and accredited surgeon, it is still important to be aware of the potential risks and complications that may arise. These include:
- Infection: A wound infection is a rare complication that requires additional measures to clean the surgical site and replace implants. Long-term antibiotic treatment may also be necessary to minimise the progression of the infection.
- Blood Clot Formation: Blood clots may develop in the legs (deep vein thrombosis) or travel to the lungs (pulmonary embolism) due to reduced mobility following the procedure, which slows down blood circulation.
- Nerve or Blood Vessel Damage: A nerve or blood vessel injury may result in weakness and impairment of skin sensation and muscle strength.
- Complications with Anaesthesia: Rare, adverse reactions to anaesthesia may include respiratory problems and allergic reactions. This is why it is important to disclose any allergies you may have to your doctor beforehand.
- Implant Failure or Dislocation: Dislocation of the implant may occur when patients engage in vigorous activities too soon after the procedure. This complication is more commonly associated with hip replacement implants and might require additional surgery to address the issue.
Why Choose Ardmore Orthopaedic Clinic For Your Care
We are an established orthopaedic clinic in Singapore that is committed to providing a one-stop service for all our patients’ orthopaedic needs. Dr Chong Xue Ling is accredited by the Ministry of Health and provide quality orthopaedic care, including pain management and surgical treatments in order to facilitate a quick and complete recovery. To make an appointment, please call 6970 1307 today.