Orthop(a)edics 101

Orthopedics 101Is it “orthopaedic” or “orthopedic”? What does “musculoskeletal” really mean? What’s the difference between a ligament and a tendon? Today we’re going to answer some of the more pressing questions people have about this fascinating area of medicine.

First off, let’s discuss the use of orthopaedic v. orthopedic. Orthopaedic is derived from the Greek orthos, for correct or straight, and paideion, for child. Today, orthop(a)edics refers to the correction of spinal and bony deformities in both children and adults. In the U.S., we like to keep things simple, so “orthopedics” has become the standard spelling. In Great Britain and its other former (non-U.S.) colonies, orthopaedics is preferred. The academic world, like the Brits, enjoys fancying things up, so in most universities and other academic settings, orthpaedics stands. Microsoft Word prefers it without the “a.” Take your pick.

Simply put, orthopaedic (or orthopedic) surgery is the branch of surgery concerned with conditions of the musculoskeletal system. What’s the musculoskeletal system? Clearly, it’s a system that involves the muscles and the skeleton. Also called the “locomotor system,” the musculoskeletal system includes the parts of your body that help you move. And help you stay in one place. The bones provide stability, while the muscles help the bones stay in place and move. Joints allow motion, and cartilage keeps the bone ends from rubbing against one another. It’s all about how bones are connected to other bones and joints and muscles by connective tissues called tendons and ligaments.

What’s the difference between a tendon and a ligament, you ask? A tendon (or sinew) is a tough band of tissue that connects the muscle to the bone. A ligament connects bones to other bones. But wait—let’s not forget the fascia. The fascia is a layer of fibrous tissue that surrounds muscles and groups of muscles, as well as blood vessels and nerves, and binds all of these together. The layers of fascia include a superficial fascia (connected to the dermis, or skin), a deep fascia (surrounding the bones and muscles), and a subserous, or visceral, fascia (supporting the organs).

The surgeons and physiatrists at the Emory Orthpaedics & Spine Center are intimately familiar with every aspect of the musculoskeletal system and can diagnose and treat myriad ailments, both surgically and nonsurgically. So if you’re hurting, whether from a broken bone or a stretched or torn ligament or tendon, come see us. With or without the “a,” we know our orthop(a)edics.

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