At the Relief Institute a trusted doctor is paramount to your medical care and well-being. It is this core value that drives us to provide doctors who are thoroughly trained, board certified, and experienced in the foot and ankle specialty.
There are two providers in the specialty of foot and ankle. The Doctor of Podiatric Medicine (DPM) and the Orthopedic Foot and Ankle Surgeon (MD or DO)). Both Podiatrists and Orthopedists are qualified health providers who are required to complete rigorous schooling and training to become highly specialized in conservative and surgical treatments of the foot and ankle. Although Podiatrists and Orthopedic Foot and Ankle Surgeons treat many of the same conditions and utilize the same equipment in conservative and surgical management of those conditions, their training is different. Which doctor you end up choosing truly depends upon your condition, what type of treatment your condition requires.
Let’s take a look at the similarities and differences of the Podiatrist and Orthopedic Foot and Ankle Surgeon.
A podiatrist is a doctor of Podiatric Medicine, or a DPM. A Podiatrist has specialized training to treat disorders of the foot and ankle. Podiatrists do not attend a traditional medical school but a specialized school of Podiatric Medicine. Podiatrists study medicine as it relates to the feet, during their entire course of study. They also have their own accredited Medical Professional Associations focused only on the foot and ankle. Currently, they must complete the following education and training:
Podiatrists can earn board certification with advanced training, clinical experience, and by ultimately taking an exam. The American Board of Foot and Ankle Surgery (ABFAS) and the American Board of Podiatric Medicine are certifying boards for the field. Overall, a Podiatrists training is similar to that of other physicians.
Podiatrists treat only the foot and ankle. Podiatrists can focus on many fields, such as surgery, sports medicine, wound care, pediatrics, and diabetic care. Podiatrist will diagnose, treat and prevent foot and ankle diseases, disorders, and injuries. They perform a wide range of conservative and surgical treatments to the foot, ankle, and lower leg areas including fractures, soft tissues, wound care, and reconstructive procedures of the foot and ankle. They are also extremely well trained in biomechanics and proper foot balance and therefore equipped to fit orthotics, custom shoes, and a variety of braces. Podiatrists also prescribe medications and physical therapy. A podiatrist is probably more inclined to try to treat conditions conservatively and would likely recommend surgical approach only if other methods have not been successful. In fact, some podiatrists do not do surgery or are not trained in the latest surgical techniques. Others that are well trained perform complicated reconstructive surgeries.
Orthopedic Surgeons are Medical Doctors (MD’s or DO’s), who diagnose, treat and prevent diseases and injuries of your body’s musculoskeletal system. The musculoskeletal system consists of your muscles, tendons, bones, joints, ligaments and nerves. There are many subspecialties within Orthopedics such as shoulder, knee, hip, elbow, spine, foot and ankle, and spine. Orthopedic surgeons who are trained and specialize in Foot and Ankle typically only treat issues related to the foot and ankle. Some are trained in other orthopedic specialties as well since foot and ankle problems can originate from your knee, hip, or lower back.
A Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) is similarly educated and certified as the Medical Doctor, but there are differences in their training and philosophy of patient care. The Osteopathic philosophy involves treating the mind, the body, and the spirit. For the patient, the osteopathic approach is less about prescribing and medical procedures and more on the body trying to heal itself. The MD’s receive more of the traditional training and the osteopathic physician’s training has a lot more to do with the physical manipulation of the body.
Currently to become an Orthopedic Foot and Ankle surgeon, they must complete the following education and training which can take up to 14 years:
Orthopedic Surgeons then become Board Certified by completing a peer-review process and passing oral and written examinations administered by the American Board of Orthopedic Surgery. They must be re-certified every 10 years, which includes continued training and acquisition of continuing medical education credits.
Orthopedic surgeons have a better general medical background. If you choose an orthopedic surgeon to take care of your feet and ankles, make sure you chose one with a specialty in foot and ankle problems.
Regardless if you choose a Podiatrist of an Orthopedic Foot and Ankle Specialist, remember, there are differences of opinion. Which doctor you end up choosing truly depends upon your condition or what type of treatment your condition requires. A surgically trained podiatrist or a foot and ankle orthopedic surgeon are both excellent choices. It is always a great idea to ask your doctor about their qualifications and experience before proceeding with surgery. A well-trained podiatric surgeon or a foot and ankle orthopedist is certainly a personal decision. You should be comfortable with the individual doctor and his/her demeanor, attitude, and reputation.