What kind of healthcare professionals do I need for arthritis?

Successful management of arthritis requires a combination of different therapies. Management may include medicines, exercise, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and weight control. That's why you may need many types of healthcare professionals. Your treatment team may include any of the following:

  • Your primary care doctor. Your primary care doctor, or "regular" doctor, may be a general practitioner or internist. Your doctor can help you find any specialists you may need for arthritis. If you don't have a primary care doctor, don't know where to find one, or don't think you can afford one, check your insurance company's website for further information.
  • A rheumatologist. Rheumatologists are doctors who focus on conditions that affect the joints, muscles, and tissues. They are not typically used to treat osteoarthritis but do treat rheumatoid arthritis.
  • A physical therapist. Physical therapists use various treatments, such as exercise, massage, heat, cold, electrical stimulation, and ultrasound, to prevent or reduce joint stiffness and restore muscle strength.
  • An occupational therapist. Occupational therapists teach you how to do certain day-to-day activities in order to lessen stress on your joints, increase your range of motion, and improve muscle strength. They may also provide special equipment to help you do daily tasks, such as buttoning a shirt or opening a bottle.
  • A pharmacist. A pharmacist can counsel you on good medication habits and information about possible side effects or interactions of medications.
  • A registered dietitian. A dietitian can help you develop healthier eating habits. Working with one can help you lose weight if you need to. Excess weight increases the pain and the damage caused from osteoarthritis and can hasten the progression of the disease.
  • Exercise instructor. These instructors must be specifically trained in arthritis exercise programs.
  • Orthopedic surgeon. An orthopedic surgeon helps preserve and restore the function of the musculoskeletal system.
  • Alternative medicine professionals. These professionals may include an acupuncturist, massage therapist, yoga instructor, or herbal medicine specialist.


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