Which Doctor Treats Osteoarthritis?
Treating any type of arthritis requires a range of expert help. In your treatment of osteoarthritis, you may find some or all of the following become a part of your professional healthcare team:
Primary Care Doctor: These are doctors (a family doctor for instance) who treat patients before they are transferred to a specialist. Even though you may be referred to a specialist for a diagnosis or treatment your primary care physician will more than likely coordinate the care you receive from all the health care providers you come into contact with.
Rheumatologists: These are doctors that specialize in the treatment of all types of arthritis, (including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, gout and fibromyalgia); and diseases of the muscles and bones including osteoporosis.
Orthopedists: Surgeons who specialize in surgery of the musculoskeletal system. That is, surgery for bone and joint diseases. If you need joint replacement surgery (arthroplasty), this operation will be performed by an orthopedic surgeon. Carpal tunnel release, fracture repair, hip replacement, lower back disc surgery and knee and shoulder arthroscopy are just some of the surgeries commonly performed by orthopedists.
Physiatrists (rehabilitation specialists): A medical doctor or doctor of osteopathy who is certified in rehabilitation medicine. The goal of this a physiatrist is to help the patient overcome the difficulties of physical disability and impairments and make the most of their physical potential. A physiatrist will diagnose and recommend a treatment plan for a patient, and a physical therapist will carry out the treatment.
Physical Therapists: Health workers qualified to help patients improve joint function. The therapist, sometimes working with a physiatrist, will design a personal exercise plan to help improve, or maintain joint flexibility. They will teach you how to loosen stiff joints without further damaging the joint. Patients with osteoarthritis of the knee are commonly treated by physical therapists. The goal of therapy is to get the patient back to the point where they can carry out daily activities without pain.
Occupational Therapists: Health professionals who teach you how to reduce strain on your joints while carrying out daily activities. An occupational therapist will usually visit your home and/or workplace to assess how you can modify your environment to reduce motions that will aggravate your arthritis. They may recommend arthritis aids such as assistive devices to help with dressing or housekeeping.
Dieticians: If your doctor has recommended weight loss, you may be referred to a dietician for a personal diet plan. While losing weight will do nothing to cure already arthritic joints, it may help prevent arthritis in other joints. A recent study showed that near 25 to 50 percent of knee arthritis cases in obese women over 50 could be prevented by losing weight; and 25 percent of hip arthritis cases.
Nurse educators: Specialized nurses who help patients understand their overall condition and implement their treatment plans.
Licensed acupuncture therapists: Studies show that acupuncture is particularly helpful for dealing with arthritis of the knee. It is an ancient technique where fine needles are inserted into parts of the body with the aim of suppressing pain and releasing feel-good endorphins. A recent German study involving 300,000 osteoarthritis patients who received 15 sessions of acupuncture over a 3 month period (in combination with their usual medical care), found that those who received acupuncture reported significant improvement in pain, stiffness and movement compared to those who did not. Benefits lasted at least 3 months after the last treatment.
Psychologists: Health professionals that help people suffering from depression as a result of their illness.
Chiropractors: Complementary and alternative medicine healthcare workers that work on the neuromusculoskeletal system by manipulating the spine, joints and muscles. Most people who seek chiropractice care do so for back pain, but it may also be used to improve joint pain in other parts of the body.
Massage therapists: Massage is a great way to relax and bring better blood flow to the joints.