When it comes to treating arthritis, you may need a whole team of healthcare professionals to get the pain under control and allow you to function normally. Arthritis treatments can include medicine, exercise, physical therapy, occupational therapy and weight control. Accordingly, there are different professionals for each aspect of your arthritis management.
First of all, your regular general practitioner or internist will serve as your primary care doctor. He can help you find the specialists you need in order to get your arthritis under control. If you don't have a GP, your insurance company might be able to recommend one. If you're dealing with rheumatoid arthritis, you may be referred to a rheumatologist. Rheumatologists are medical doctors who treat joints, muscles and tissues affected by various conditions. They're not usually able to help with osteoarthritis, though.
The next layer of treatment comes from physical therapy. Physical therapists can help prevent and reduce joint stiffness and help you regain muscle strength through specific exercises, massage and hot, cold or electrical stimulation. Similarly, occupational therapists can help you adjust so that you can perform mundane activities without stressing your joints as much. They can also teach you to increase your range of motion and to build muscle strength. Occupational therapists may be able to offer special tools to help you do your daily tasks more easily.
Other healthcare professionals that can assist you with your arthritis treatment are pharmacists, dieticians, specially trained exercise instructors and orthopedic surgeons. Pharmacists can help you figure out good medicine habits and they can tell you which medications cause what side effects, and which drugs not to mix with each other. Dieticians and exercise professionals can help you figure out a weight-loss plan to minimize the stress on your joints. Some people choose to turn to alternative medical professionals for added help.