Podiatrist vs. Orthopedist for Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar Fasciitis from Chicago Health SMB Brands on Vimeo.

What is the difference between orthopedic surgery and podiatry for the condition of plantar fasciitis?  Both are medical and surgical specialties, and its practitioners attended medical school and residency, and go through a licensure and board certification process.  Orthopedic surgeons and podiatrists work side by side in hospitals and in the same group practices.

The main difference lies in the body systems they treat.  Orthopedic surgeons are concerned with bones, muscles, ligaments and joints throughout the body.  They are bone and joint surgeons.  Podiatrists are foot and ankle doctors and surgeons.  As such, there are overlaps between the two.  Both are concerned with bones, muscles, ligaments and joints in the foot.

Outside of this, orthopedic surgeons are concerned with other areas of the body, including knees, hips, spine.  Podiatrists go into their field knowing from day one that they will be physicians and surgeons of the foot and ankle.  Their curriculum and course of study is geared toward that end.  So even though an orthopedic surgeon may have some experience or training in the foot and ankle, it does not compare in terms of commitment and depth of training in the foot and ankle, all systems, that a podiatrist receives over many years of schooling, residency and fellowship.

This is true in the diagnosis and treatment of plantar fasciitis.  Plantar fasciitis is the most common musculoskeletal condition of the foot.  It is characterized by heel or arch pain, especially upon getting up in the morning from bed or out of a chair, or it may worsen as one walks over the course of the day.  The pain is caused by the pulling of the ligament on the bottom of the foot.  This may cause the heel bone to develop a spur to protect itself, but the spur is not the cause of the pain.

Orthopedic surgeons may emphasize surgery for the condition, or refer to other providers, such as physical therapists.  Podiatrists also perform surgery for this condition, but it is rare, as less invasive, even simple and inexpensive, treatment methods are effective. Proper treatment includes rigid orthotic support, icing, anti-inflammatories, stretching.  There are many forms of the above that may be used. More advanced therapies may also be utilized, such as custom orthotics, a treatment method rarely used by orthopedic surgeons, and extracorporeal shockwave therapy.  However, the condition rarely needs surgery.

Podiatric surgeons, therefore, are more specialized and detailed in the treatment of plantar fasciitis, as the foot and ankle are their specialty.

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“Excellent! I followed what Dr. Hoy said to do to get rid of plantar fasciitis, and it worked–never came back.” -Kendel L.