Orthopedic Surgeon Vs. Pain Management Specialist

Whom do you go for when you need urgent pain alleviation solutions? Making this decision can be a daunting task because of the several available sub-categories. Identifying the ideal medical professional for urgent pain alleviation is important. Pain management and orthopedic surgeons are both specialists that can help you. This guide will help you identify the differences between the two. We will be talking about their training, the type of medical problems each professional treats, and whether both can perform joint injections. Keep reading to discover more below.

What Does an Orthopedic Surgeon do?

Orthopedic surgeons specialize in the musculoskeletal system, comprised of the joints, ligaments, bones, muscles, and tendons. This system plays an essential role in our bodies. It allows you to move from one place to another, lift things, type, talk, writes, and so much more. An orthopedic surgeon has the required skills to locate fractured bones, fix joints or back pain. Such a professional can treat all the 200 bones in the human body. Whether you have arthritis, acute chronic, degenerative conditions, back or hip pain, orthopedic surgeons are equipped to deal with these issues.

Since orthopedic deals with a wide range of issues, it is divided into various categories of treatment. For instance, joint surgeons only help with knee and hip problems. They can also help with arthritis, affecting more than half of all adults above age 65. Hand and wrist surgeons are involved in the treatment of hand and wrist problems. Understanding the rule of each orthopedic surgeon is essential if you want to overcome your pain problems.

What Does a Pain Management Specialist Do?

Pain management specialists are involved in the treatment of neck and back pain. They focus on the patient’s quality of life and ability to handle necessary life functions. Your primary care provider might recommend you to a pain management doctor if he is having trouble finding a mechanical cause of your medical problem.

Physiatrists focus on the musculoskeletal area. The role of a physiatrist is to develop a treatment plan to alleviate or manage pain without surgery. Physiatrists work with other professionals such as anesthesiologists, oncologists, occupational therapists, psychologists, nurses, and physical therapists.

The Differences Between an Orthopedic Surgeon and Pain Management Specialists

Understanding the differences between the two will allow you to make the right decision. Keep on reading to discover the differences between an orthopedic surgeon and a pain management doctor.


Orthopedic surgeons go through four years of medical school and a minimum of five years of residency. They also go through a fellowship focused on a specific area of orthopedic surgery such as spinal cord surgery, joint surgery, and foot and ankle surgery. Fellowship lasts about one to two years. Orthopedic residencies are long and very competitive because there is so much to learn to understand the musculoskeletal system better. Most orthopedic students who apply for residencies are not places. In fact, only 755 students were placed from more than 1,037 students in 2019. Only the best students are placed. Successful placement requires exceptional medical school grades, impressive licensing exam scores, unmatched research skills, and impressive clinical rotations performance.

Pain management Specialists require four years of premedical school and four years of medical school. After completing medical school, they join residency in either anesthesiology or physical medicine and rehabilitation.  The study of physical medicine and rehabilitation is also known as physiatry (not to be confused with psychiatry). A physiatrist or anesthesiologist may practice pain management without any additional training. However, many physiatrists and anesthesiologists will pursue further training with a fellowship in pain management.

Types of Medical Issues that Each Specialist Covers

Now that you know the difference in training, let us look at the type of pain problems each professional handles:

Pain Management Specialist

Pain management specialists handle a range of pain issues. They evaluate the patient to identify the underlying issue and create the ideal treatment plan. These specialists’ type of problems is divided into three parts, namely direct tissue injury, nerve injuries, and a blend of nerve and tissue injuries.

Some of the disorders related to tissue injuries include osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Common nerve disorders include multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injury, stroke, and neuropathy. Nerve and tissue injuries include neck pain, cancer, and back pain.

Pain management doctors usually start treatments with physical therapy or medication. Hard-to-treat problems may then be treated by more advanced techniques, including pain pump stimulators, viscosupplementation, or radiofrequency ablation.

Orthopedic Surgeon

Orthopedic surgeons handle almost all the conditions that affect your musculoskeletal system. Some of the conditions that an orthopedic surgeon treat include:

  • Fractures.
  • Low back pain.
  • Osteoporosis.
  • Shoulder pain.
  • Soft tissue injury.
  • Kyphosis.
  • Knee pain.
  • Hand pain.
  • Wrist pain.
  • Fibromyalgia.
  • Bursitis.
  • Arthritis.
  • Hip pain.
  • Scoliosis.
  • Paget’s disease of the bone.
  • Elbow pain.
  • Foot pain.
  • Ligaments injuries.
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome.
  • Torn meniscus.
  • Medial epicondylitis.

The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons estimates that practicing orthopedic surgeons handle more than 32 procedures every month. Some of the popular orthopedic procedures:

  • Osteotomy. This procedure focuses on reshaping reformed bones and damaged joints. The surgeon cuts and reshapes the deformed bones.
  • Debridement. The surgeon removes damaged soft tissue to facilitate healing.
  • Fusion Surgery. It is the best procedure for patients with severe arthritis and joint pain. The surgeon combines two different bones to increase stability.
  • Bone Fracture Repair. Surgeons attach screws, pins, or metal plates to the fractured bones to speed up healing.
  • Joint Replacement. The procedure deals with the removal of a damaged joint. The surgeon replaces it with a ceramic, metal, or plastic device known as a prosthesis.
  • Revision Joint Surgery. This procedure works when the prosthesis starts to fail after some time. The old prosthesis is removed and replaced with a new one.
  • Soft Tissue Repair. The procedure focuses on removing damaged tissue and replacing it with living tissue.
  • Arthroscopy. It is the best treatment procedure for joint pains. The surgeon will make a small incision in your skin and insert a small device with a small lens to diagnose and treat underlying joint issues.

Final Thoughts

Orthopedic surgeons have the skills and tools to deal with all underlying orthopedic issues. When your doctor recommends orthopedic surgery, make sure to contact Dr. Paul Norio Morton, MD – Hip and Knee Orthopedic Surgeon in Honolulu, Hawaii. Dr. Paul Norio Morton offers personalized care and a professional approach.