An orthopaedic surgeon is a doctor who cares for patients with problems in their bones, joints, muscles and tendons. The aim of an orthopaedic surgeon is to relieve a patient's pain, improve their function and activities of daily living, and thereby allow them to have a higher quality of life.
Orthopaedic surgeons use many methods, both surgical and non-surgical to achieve these aims. Surgery is usually considered only once other treatments (e.g. physical therapies, pain medicine, cortisone injections) have been tried. There are some circumstances when delaying surgery can be to the detriment of a patient, and in these circumstances it may be offered early during a patient's treatment.
In Australia, an orthopaedic surgeon usually completes 6 years of university training after coming out of high school. They then work as junior doctors for 3 to 4 years, before entering the official national training program run jointly by the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, and the Australian Orthopaedic Association. A doctor trained in this way has the letters "FRACS (Ortho)" after their name. Most surgeons with a specific interest then choose to "sub-specialize", which involves further specific training focussed on a specific part of the body. This is known as a "Fellowship".