The relationship between podiatrists and orthopedists is something like that of two politicians who claim to really, really respect each other, while each secretly believes in his own superiority. For most ailments, though, the question of which kind of doctor to see is largely a matter of whom you feel most comfortable with. (Surgeons tend to be more expensive, but since both are covered by insurance, money needn’t be the determining factor.) Although podiatrists and orthopedic surgeons treat many of the same conditions, their training is different. Orthopedic surgeons go through four years of medical school plus a five-year residency in their specialty. Podiatrists attend podiatricmedical college for four years, receiving a DPM rather than an MD, and also complete a three-year residency. There is much overlap in the treatments, though orthopedists like to point out that they tend to see the patient as a whole, not just from the ankle down. Many patients swear by podiatrists, however, believing that they are better at offering pain relief. While most podiatrists are trained in surgery, some hospitals allow them to operate only on the front of the foot. Whomever you decide to consult, if you are considering surgery, make sure your doctor has special training in the procedure you need and performs it regularly.
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