Origins of orthopedics: terminology and practice

The term orthopedic comes to us from 18th-century French physician Nicholas Andry, who created the term by combining the Greek words orthos (straight or correct) and paideia (growth of a child). From these words, Andry created the French word “orthopedique” to describe the medical practice of maintaining or correcting the form or structure of the body. Despite the name, this practice grew into treating patients at all stages of development, not just children.

This is the origin of orthopedics — a branch of medicine concerned with the integrity and function of the musculoskeletal system. While the musculoskeletal system encompasses the whole body, there are particular areas more prone to developing issues. Examples of these areas are the hips, knees and especially the spine.

Spinal anatomy

The spine is an extremely important part of anatomy, supporting the upper body and protecting the spinal cord as it runs from the brain to the rest of the body. This means that our spines withstand a lot of impact throughout their lifetime — from the day-to-day pounding of our walking to playing high-impact sports — resulting in significant wear and tear.

As a result, the spine is particularly susceptible to orthopedic problems including:

These issues can cause painful symptoms if they compress the spinal cord or a nerve root as it leaves the spine.

Orthopedic treatment

An orthopedist who specializes in the spine will generally first attempt to treat these conditions through nonsurgical means such as physical therapy, epidural steroid injections and therapeutic massage. Traditional open spine surgery to decompress nerves can be performed by orthopedic surgeons and neurosurgeons, but is usually explored only when conservative treatments have been exhausted because of its highly invasive nature.

At Laser Spine Institute, we seek to restore the structural integrity and function of the spine through minimally invasive spine surgery. These procedures are an alternative to traditional open spine surgery, using a smaller incision that offers a shorter recovery time^ with less risk of complications than traditional open spine surgery. Our highly skilled team of orthopedic surgeons and neurosurgeons has helped more than 75,000 patients get their lives back from neck and back pain.

To find out if you’re a candidate for our minimally invasive procedures, contact Laser Spine Institute today for your no-cost MRI review.*