What Is The Difference Between A Podiatrist And An Orthopedist?

Posted on: 27 April 2018


The feet and ankles are quite complex parts of the skeletal system in human beings. Before a person can be considered an expert in working on these areas of the body, they'll need to attend years of schooling, training and practice.

When you have an issue with your feet or your ankle, your two main options are to either see a podiatrist or an orthopedist who has specialized in these areas of the body. However, is there any difference between these two types of experts and which one do you need to see for particular issues?

Who is a Podiatrist?

A podiatrist is a medical expert who has attended podiatry school followed by a brief residency. Podiatrists aren't considered medical doctors or MDs. They can earn a Doctor of Podiatric Medicine.

In terms of education, podiatrists will need to undertake three years of undergraduate education. This is usually in specific subjects such as biology. After that, they can attend a podiatry school. Earning a Doctor of Podiatric Medicine takes four years. A three-year residency will then follow. Therefore, it will take 10 years to complete the educational requirements.

Who are Orthopedists?

To join this field, you'll need to take the same path as regular doctors. This means you'll need to start with college before going to medical school and then starting on a residency. Orthopedists are surgeons and will thus need to undergo five years of surgical training as well. This means it takes them a total of 13 years to achieve the total educational requirements.

In this field, the orthopedic surgery specialist can either be an MD (Doctor of Medicine) or a DO (Doctor of Osteopathy).

Do you Need a Podiatrist or an Orthopedic Surgeon?

Podiatrists specialize in matters to do with the lower leg, the ankle and the foot. The orthopedic surgeon is trained in the treatment of the skeletal system in the whole body but can choose to specialize in the treatment of the feet and ankles.

People usually go to their podiatrist when they have issues such as:    

  • Ingrown toenails    

  • Fallen arches    

  • Heel spurs    

  • Calluses    

  • Foot deformities     

  • Common injuries of the feet and ankles

Podiatrists also help to provide foot care for people who have diabetes and other such illnesses. On the other hand, orthopedists can provide care for some of these problems as well. However, they treat a much broader spectrum of issues from the bone to the soft tissue and everything in between. They can also perform surgery. Contact a clinic, like El Camino Center for Sports Medicine‚Äč, for more help.