What Does an Orthopedic Doctor Treat?

University of Utah Health provides expert care for adults, adolescents, and children who are experiencing problems of the bones and joints. We have more than 50 orthopedic specialists who diagnose and treat everything from simple sprains and strains to complex conditions. We welcome patients from throughout the Mountain West.

We have appointments available at the following locations:

When to See an Orthopedic Specialist

Orthopedic specialists treat acute and chronic conditions of the bones and joints. An acute condition is one that begins suddenly. These include broken bones and soft-tissue injuries, such as a twisted ankle. Some soft-tissue injuries clear up within a few days with at-home care. When they don’t, a visit to an orthopedic specialist can be helpful.

A chronic condition develops over time, such as arthritis or degenerative spine disease. You may want to consider seeing an orthopedic specialist for a chronic condition if:

  • you have a hard time doing everyday activities, like walking up stairs.
  • you can’t do sports or be as active as you want to be.
  • you have been experiencing pain for 12 weeks or more.
  • your range of motion is becoming more limited.
  • you feel shaky or unstable when you walk or stand.

Preparing for Your Appointment

Your orthopedic specialist will want to see any previous imaging study you have had for your condition. If your imaging study took place at a U of U Health location, the images will be in your electronic medical record, and the orthopedic specialist will be able to access them.

If the imaging study was completed elsewhere, please contact the imaging center before your appointment and ask them to provide the images to you on a CD that you can bring with you.

Treatment reports from other providers are very helpful as well. If another provider has seen you for this condition, or you have already received treatment, we would like to see those records as well.

What to Bring to Your Appointment

Please bring the following to your appointment:

  • photo ID,
  • insurance card,
  • a list of your current medications, and
  • any previous X-ray images (if available).

Be sure to wear loose-fitting clothing to your appointment. You may need to remove some of your clothing for the physical exam, so be sure to dress accordingly. A sports bra is helpful for female patients.

What to Expect at Your Orthopedic Appointment

Please arrive at the orthopedic specialist’s office about 15 minutes before your appointment. This will give you time to fill out important forms. However, feel free to call our office and ask if there are any forms you can fill out in advance before your appointment.

Your appointment will take place in an exam room. A member of our care team — typically an orthopedic specialist, athletic trainer, or nurse practitioner—will talk to you about your symptoms and medical history and do a physical exam.

During this exam, the provider will:

  • Ask you questions about your symptoms and how your condition is affecting your daily life.
  • Ask how you have been managing your symptoms and what treatment(s) you’ve already tried.
  • Ask you to perform certain activities, such as walking, lifting your arms, and bending down. This will help the provider see how your condition is affecting your ability to move.
  • Review previous X-ray images and test results. If you haven’t had an X-ray taken yet, the provider may have one taken during your appointment.

During your appointment, you may meet a resident or fellow who is pursuing advanced training in orthopedic medicine. This medical doctor may be present during your evaluation.

Your Personalized Treatment Plan

Your orthopedic specialist will develop an initial treatment plan during this appointment and discuss it with you. The plan may include some or all of the following:

  • advanced imaging, such as computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI),
  • medication to relieve pain or relax your muscles,
  • injections that can reduce pain or reduce inflammation,
  • physical therapy and other physical treatments to help restore your range of motion and flexibility and strengthen your muscles,
  • massage therapy to improve relaxation and relieve pain,
  • supports or braces to improve stability and protect your muscles, joints, and bones during the healing process,
  • a referral to another specialist, if needed for more specialized care, and
  • surgery (only about 10 percent of our patients with orthopedic conditions need surgery).

Some of these therapies can take place on the same day as your initial evaluation. If this is an option, your orthopedic specialist will discuss it with you.

Follow-Up Care

Before you leave your first appointment, our team will make sure you understand the next steps in your care. The office staff can schedule your next appointment, provide referrals to other providers, and make sure you have any prescriptions you need.

If you do not live in the Salt Lake City area, we will be happy to help you continue your recovery closer to home. Our team can provide your referring physician with a summary of your visit and communicate with other providers, such as physical therapists, about your treatment plan. 

Coming From Outside Salt Lake City?

Make an Appointment With Our Orthopedic Specialists

To make an appointment with an orthopedic specialist at U of U Health, you do not need a referral. Please call 801-587-7109 or request an appointment to schedule a consultation