Orthopedics is the branch of medicine devoted to the musculoskeletal system of the body, which includes not only the bones, but the muscles and joints that enable us to move as well. The word “orthopedics” comes from two Greek roots meaning “straight” and “child,” but despite its nominal association with children, the orthopedic specialty treats people in every stage of life — from infants born with limb deformities, to athletes suffering from sports injuries, to seniors living with arthritis and osteoporosis — because mobility is a universal concern. Moreover, the word has come to encompass a vast range of medical practices, past and present, including the replacement of missing limbs with prostheses, the management of trauma to the bones or soft tissues, and the treatment of many types of musculoskeletal conditions — some, like rickets and polio, nearly eradicated through modern discoveries, and others that we have only begun to encounter with the extension of the human lifespan. No matter how long a person’s life, the orthopedic specialty of medicine seeks to improve its quality.
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