Podiatrist vs. Orthopedist: Which One Does Your Elder Need for Their Foot and Ankle Conditions?

Unrecognizable Doctor Examining Leg Senior Patient Nursing Home

Are you or your loved ones having problems with your joints, foot, ankle, or legs? Not being able to function correctly due to pains in your lower extremities, especially your foot and ankle, can already be a hassle.

When this often happens or if you’re really having a hard time dealing with your foot and ankle problems, being able to reach the right doctor or medical practitioner is an essential part of the treatment process.

There are several medical professionals and healthcare providers for your leg foot and ankle problems which may include primary care physicians and physical therapists. You may have also heard recommendations to go to a podiatrist or to an orthopedist, but which is which? Worry not; we’re here to help, even in terms of home nursing Singapore.

A Podiatrist and Orthopedists, Defined


A podiatrist, also known as a podiatric physician or surgeon, is a practitioner with education and training that specialises in diagnosing and treating medical conditions relating to the foot, ankle and related parts of the lower extremities.

A podiatrist’s role also includes being involved in supporting and assisting older patients with medical advice to reduce their risk of falling. They commonly deal with fractures and sprains that deal with a foot or ankle, heel pain, and such that deals with your foot and ankle care, specifically.


On the other hand, orthopedists (can also be spelled as orthopaedist), also called orthopedic doctors, orthopedic surgeons and/or orthopedic physicians, are medical practitioners whose education and training focuses on injuries, disorders, malformations, and diseases affecting the musculoskeletal system which includes the bones, muscles, joints, and soft tissues.

Orthopedic doctors also have the expertise to perform surgery, and supervise direct patient care, which involves some non-surgical treatment options. An orthopedic doctor also gives consultation for pain relief and mobility problems relating to musculoskeletal issues relating to your orthopedic health.

They usually treat medical conditions of patients having arthritis, osteoarthritis, neck and lower back pain, orthopedic trauma (fractures involving the musculoskeletal system), scoliosis and such.

How are They Similar?

Both podiatrists and orthopedists can do surgical and non-surgical treatments for their patients when dealing with foot and ankle health, and they can work together in some, if not most, cases dealing with foot and ankle problems.

3 Key Differences Between a Podiatrist and an Orthopedist

While the two medical specialty may share many similarities, there are distinct differences which is elaborated below.

1) Education and Training

While both may have experience in treating foot and ankle problems and are highly qualified to do so, one can be distinguished in terms of their education, training and expertise.

A podiatrist is a medical professional who graduated from a 4-year training in podiatry school followed by a fellowship program specializing in diagnosing, preventing and treating foot and ankle problems and related injuries. Though they are not a doctor of medicine, they have more specific and specialized training in dealing with your foot and ankle health.

On the contrary, orthopedists are doctors of medicine that are experts in dealing with problems and issues related to the musculoskeletal system. They have undergone extensive clinical training and practice relating to the human body’s musculoskeletal system.

With this being said, orthopedic doctors are experts in managing treatments and diagnoses on a wider scale since they manage different issues ranging from foot and ankle problems to anything related to the musculoskeletal system.

Orthopedic surgeons are also board certified and eligible for additional certifications regarding foot, ankle, and health.

In summary, a podiatrist is a comprehensive and extensive foot and ankle doctor, physician and surgeon, while an orthopedist is a doctor and surgeon for the bones and joints for all the body parts.

2) Location and Type of Injury

Seeking whether to seek a podiatrist or an orthopedist can be confusing. However, the choice must also depend on your type of injury.

Generally, you should seek an orthopedist if you have an injury or condition affecting your musculoskeletal system. Meanwhile, if you have foot or ankle health issues, it is best to seek a podiatrist as it is their field of expertise.

An orthopedic doctor and a podiatrist can technically treat foot and ankle health issues. If you have a foot, heel, or ankle injury, it is better to seek a podiatrist. However, if you suspect that your leg or back pain is caused by a foot, heel, or ankle injury, you should consult an orthopedist because he/she can address all your musculoskeletal concerns.

In a sense, orthopedic doctors diagnose and treat patients having issues relating to the human body system. In contrast, podiatrists diagnose and treat patients having issues with a certain body part, specifically the foot and ankle.

3) Coverage of Expertise

An orthopedist and a podiatrist have different medical backgrounds. A podiatrist has undergone specialised medical training on foot, heel, ankle, and lower leg. Their entire field of expertise revolves around the foot. This includes diabetic foot care and other biomechanical issues.

They are well equipped to perform foot, heel, or ankle surgeries. They are also well trained in developing custom-fitting foot braces, which aid the patient in properly healing their foot.

Meanwhile, an orthopedist is a medical doctor that focuses on the musculoskeletal system. This means that their expertise focuses on giving a diagnosis, rehabilitation, and injury prevention concerning the musculoskeletal system.

They mainly focus on orthopedic health, which involves bones, muscles, and ligaments throughout your body. Although they may be knowledgeable about giving medical aid specific to the ankle, foot, or heel, your orthopedist of choice should have undergone fellowship training in foot and ankle health.

Orthopedic doctors or surgeons are also those mainly involved when dealing with patients with sports injuries.

Final Words

A podiatrist and an orthopedic doctor may have their differences; they are more similar than different. Both of them are highly qualified to help you. Sometimes, they even work together to be able to correctly diagnose and treat your foot and ankle issues.

However, choosing the right doctor for good elderly care in Singapore is crucial and can be confusing at times. Being able to tell their differences will significantly help determine who fits your medical situation better. Addressing your medical issues promptly is important, especially with your foot and ankle, since mobility and daily activities can be significantly affected.

Of course, while their expertise may help you determine who to choose, the one you’re comfortable with to deal with your foot and ankle problems is an excellent factor in restoring your and your loved one’s foot and ankle health or orthopedic health in tip-top shape.

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