13 answers

Difference Between Orthopedist and Podiatrist?

My daughter has an overlapping second toe that is causing her discomfort. The pediatrician finally sent us to see a podiatrist. We have seen two podiatrist so far and with little luck. The first one put her in a boot to relieve her from pain and wanted to check her hips if the problem persist. As to why I have no clue. The x-rays came back with no breaks, fractures, tumors, or cyst. And normal bone growth. And the second one said to give her tylenol. There was nothing else they could do for her. I do not want to drug my child. And I can not believe there is nothing else to be done. So I am going on my third doctor. Someone told me to ask to see an orthopedist instead of a podiatrist. That they will be able to help her. Can anyone tell me the difference? I looked online and they seem almost the same. A podiatrist helps the feet and orthopedist helps deformities. Does anyone recommend one over the other? The podiatrist didn't seem to want to help her. She is only three. She will be four in July. Her foot hurts her from walking and if she tries to play to long that night she will wake up crying in pain. I am getting really frustrated with the podiatrist. Seeing how her pediatrician seem to think that a tendon is pulling to tight and would just need to be cut. But no one wants to do it. They do feel it is necessary since she is a child and they do not want to interfer with her growth which I understand but to tell me there is nothing they can do but tylenol that just doesn't seem right. Can anyone help? Desperate mother here going mentally insane.

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

We went to see an orthopaedic surgeon. He was a lot better then the two podiatrist we previously saw. He actually seems to care about my daughter and does recognize a problem. As for the podiatrist who said it was normal child growth and suggested tylenol for her. He wants a bone scan done to better see what is going on with her body. He also did a hip x-ray that came out fine. But not everything shows up on an x-ray. Hence the reason for the bone scan. Thank you to everyone who helped. I hope we can have a resolution soon.

Featured Answers

I have seen something at I think Walgreens. It is this little thing that you put two toes into, one toe into each little hole. the thing is flat on the bottom and what looks like an "m" on the top that the toes go into. It is suppost to keep the toes straight with out discomfort.

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I work in a hospital. Both podiatrists and orthopaedists perform surgery on the feet. The difference is that an orthopaedic is a medical doctor - obtains his 4 year college degree, goes on to 4 years medical school, performs a one year general internship, then goes on to a 3 or 4 year orthopaedic surgery residency. Performs surgery not only on feet, but on any bone in the body. A podiatrist goes to podiatric school, then usually will complete a one year internship. They train in feet only. The orthopaedic surgeon would be my choice since they are a medical doctor and have such extensive training and specialize in bones.

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If you live in the central valley, take her to the pediatric orthopedists at Children's Hospital. Since they specialize in kids, they will know the most appropriate course of treatment ( be it physical therapy or surgery). In the meantime, I agree that you need to treat her pain, especially if it interferes w/ her activity or sleep. Good luck and let us know what happens!

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A podiatrist focuses only on disorders of the feet, while an orthopedic surgeon has a wider perspective of the whole body. Particularly, orthopedic surgeons relate to the joints of the body.
So, podiatrists are somewhat of a specialist under orthopedics, but are not recognized as such.

We use Arnica gel for pain relief on so many things. It is natural and pretty effective. It may help until you have a resolution. Good luck!


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My son has seen both. I'd say go for it see an orthopedic doc. He/she will examine your child's legs,feet,trunck and make sure they are work properly. Has your child had any trouble walking or any delayed milestones? Maybe the ortho can give you better advise on your child.

1 mom found this helpful

I have seen something at I think Walgreens. It is this little thing that you put two toes into, one toe into each little hole. the thing is flat on the bottom and what looks like an "m" on the top that the toes go into. It is suppost to keep the toes straight with out discomfort.

1 mom found this helpful

Dear L.,
I will say do go see a orthopedist. May be you could try to find a pediatric orthopedist. But in the mean time give your child tylonal for discomfort. I'm saying until you can see a orthopedist. You do not want your child to be so uncomfortable that he or she looses the much needed sleep. I'm living proof what not to do. My son had a short muscle in his back legs and he had muscle spasms galore. We couldn't get him a specailist until he was around 3-4 and he still suffers till this day. So please take this into heart. M. Petersen

1 mom found this helpful

You might also want to try a good physical therapist who specializes in working with children. If there's a way to retrain the tendon (or whatever is wrong) without surgery, that seems like a positive to me. Good luck.

I just wanted to respond, in case anyone reads this in the future....I am a podiatric student. Podiatrists go to a 4 year college then go to 4 years of podiatry school (our schooling is just like MD/DO students, in fact some of our schools are affiliated with MD/DO schools and we take classes with the MD/DO students...I only bring this up to clarify our education) and now it is mandatory for all students to attend a 3 yr residency. It is true that we specialize in only the foot and ankle,however we do look at the whole person, as we have been educated about systemic diseases. In my opinion many doctors, not just podiatrists are somewhat leery of touching a young child (as it sounds like your child may need some type of surgery) b/c the malpractice follows them until the child is 18. Your best bet is to find a pediatric podiatrist or orthopod.

Personally being 20 years old, i have chronic ankle sprains. I first went to an orthopedic surgeon after my ankle started dislocating instead of spraining. He told me it wasn't possible due to him not being able to see fractures on the x-ray and sent me to physical therapy. I then have had it happen many more times since, this last time it was so painful I went to a podiatrist. He took x-rays and gave me an MRI letting me know I have had multiple fractures that he can see healed on their own and i need surgery immediately to fix a torn tendon and shredded ligaments. Personally I found the podiatrist to be most helpful in my case, he seemed to really care and listen to what i was saying. I think in your case based on how young your daughter is surgery may not be the best at this point of time. They don't want to jump into such a serious procedure in case it can straighten itself out first as she grows. As to helping the pain, i would agree with some of the other people below to look around at walgreens and use things to relieve pressure. Just don't jump into anything too fast and trust why they don't think surgery would be a good idea quite yet.

this might sound really weird and crazy, but have you tried lightly taping her toe to the one on the other side, gently with bandage tape? when toes are broken, this is what they do to heal them, and i know her toe is not broken but i wonder if taping it gently would persuade it to grow straighter? im not a doctor and obviously you should check with one before you try this, but its the only thing i can think of that you havent tried already. a podiatrist is a foot doctor and an orthopedist is a bone specialist. good luck!

a podiatrist specializes in feet, and othropedist specializes in all bones including the feet. I might suggest that you see Dr. Todd Shaprio if you live in Bakersfield, he's an excellent orthopedic surgeon and a nice man, if he can't fix it he will refer you to someone who can.
good luck

I would try the orthopedist and see what happens and if you still aren't getting the help you need, you may want to try a chiropractor. My son (2 1/2 years) has skin and digestive problems, I know this is even close to what you are going through, however, he was crying and itching a lot and the doctors I took him to wanted to medicate and try steriods which I was totally against. I took him to my chiropractor and he has been much happier and a lot more involved in everything. Hope this helps . . . T.

Dear L.,

You need to go to an Orthopedist - they do surgery, which is probably what will have to happen. They know what they are doing, so trust them, except if they tell you that there is nothing to be done, then keep on going to doctors until one of them will help your.
Good Luck, C. N.

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