The A-Team:  A Glossary of Health Professionals

Originally published in Arthritis Today
By Michele Taylor

Get to know the members of your "Arthritis Team" a little better, and learn how everyone from your doctor to your mom can play an important role.

A chronic illness affects all aspects of your life - physical, emotional, mental and even spiritual. So it's no surprise that caring for your arthritis or related condition means more than taking pills or doing a fitness routine.

Living well with a chronic condition means weight, pain and disease control through a variety of means - everything from exercise and eating well to relaxation or surgery. Having a well-rounded health-care plan requires a well-rounded health-care team.

We'll introduce you to some people you might want to recruit for your team.

Name: Rheumatologist (MD or DO)
AKA: "arthritis doctor"
What They Do For You:
Rheumatologists specialize in diseases of the musculoskeletal system. They diagnose and treat arthritis and related conditions such as lupus, osteoporosis, fibromyalgia and gout.
What Else You Should Know:
A rheumatologist can provide ongoing care for your arthritis-related symptoms or consultation as you continue to work with your primary doctor or other specialists.
To Find Out More:
Contact the American College of Rheumatology at 404-633-3777.

Name: Pediatric Rheumatologist (MD or DO)
AKA: "arthritis doctor for kids"
What They Do For You:
Pediatric rheumatologists specialize in treating musculoskeletal diseases in children. They are more experienced in diagnosing and treating childhood arthritis.
What Else You Should Know:
A pediatric rheumatologist will work with the other health professionals on your team to insure the best quality care. He or she also will be more experienced in knowing the correct drug treatment for your child with arthritis.
To Find Out More:
Contact the American College of Rheumatology at 404-633-3777.

Name: Pharmacist (PharmD)
AKA: druggist
What They Do For You:
Pharmacists fill prescriptions. They help you avoid potential drug interactions and suggest strategies to avoid side effects and improve medication use. They evaluate your medications and answer questions about them. Pharmacists can give information about over-the-counter medications, herbal and dietary supplements and - in some states - administer immunizations, check blood pressure, screen for osteoporosis or provide other health-related services.
What Else You Should Know:
While you may see several doctors, experts suggest you stick with one pharmacist, who can then keep track of your medications and provide advice about potential problems.
To Find Out More:
Contact the American Pharmaceutical Association at 202-628-4410

Name: Podiatrist (DPM)
AKA: foot doctor, foot and ankle surgeon
What They Do For You:
Podiatrists treat conditions affecting your foot or ankle; they are licensed to perform surgery and prescribe medication. They focus on controlling inflammation, preserving joint function and treating diseases or abnormalities (bunions, corns, calluses, etc.).
What Else You Should Know:
Most podiatrists also focus on preventing foot problems that may occur due to your foot's shape or abnormalities.
To Find Out More:
Contact the American Podiatric Association at 800-FOOT-CARE.

Name: Clergy
AKA: Pastor, rabbi, minister or priest
What They Do For You:
A religious leader can assist you with your spiritual needs. They will pray with or for you, direct you to appropriate religious text and provide with spiritual guidance such as counseling or referrals to other services.
What Else You Should Know:
Many religious leaders are trained in counseling and are frequently consulted in lieu of a mental health-care professional.
To Find Out More:
Check an Internet search engine (Google, Yahoo, etc.) or your Yellow Pages to find a church, synagogue, mosque, temple or other place of worship.

Name: Chiropractor (DC)
AKA: "chiro"
What They Do For You:
Chiropractors help relieve pain and increase your range of motion through manual manipulation of joints.
What Else You Should Know:
Chiropractors focus on natural health-care treatments, and do not perform surgery or prescribe medicine. They are trained, however, to diagnose conditions that would require treatment by a medical doctor - and refer patients to the proper health-care provider.
To Find Out More:
Contact the American Chiropractic Association at 800-986-4636.

Name: Primary Care Physician (MD) or Osteopathic Physician (DO)
AKA: family or general practitioner, internist osteopath
What They Do For You:

Primary care physicians take care of many of your routine medical needs - conducting an annual physical exam, checking your blood pressure, cholesterol level and heart rate. They will monitor your medication use and keep track of which specialists you see.

Osteopathic physicians practice much like MDs but some use hands-on adjustments - Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment (OMT) - to relieve pain and restore normal function to arthritic joints.

What Else You Should Know:
Your primary care physician can handle much of your routine arthritis-related care. These doctors can also refer you to an appropriate specialist for further evaluation.
To Find Out More:
Contact the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) at 913-906-6000 or the American Osteopathic Association at 800-621-1773.

Name: Physical Therapist, Occupational Therapist (OTR)
AKA: OT, PT
What They Do For You:
PTs help you manage pain and improve mobility by using therapeutic exercise, heat, cold or water therapy. OTs can teach you ways to more easily perform everyday activities (cooking, driving, dressing) that may have become more challenging due to pain or mobility limitations. An OT may recommend assistive devices or joint protection techniques to help with daily activities.
What Else You Should Know:
Many PTs are trained in soft-tissue massage. Some OTs are also Certified Han Therapists (CHT). They have obtained specialized training in elbows, wrists and hands.
To Find Out More:
For more information about PTs, contact the American Physical Therapy Association at 703-684-2782. Contact the American Occupational Therapy Association at 301-652-2682.

Name: Acupuncturist (CA, DOM, LAc)
AKA: Certified or licensed acupuncturist, Doctor of Oriental Medicine
What They Do For You:
Acupuncturists help to relieve pain by inserting small needles into certain areas of the body. Some research points to the fact that acupuncture may cause the release of endorphins, or painkilling hormones.
What Else You Should Know:
Some professional acupuncturists may be doctors, but most typically are not. A medical doctor or doctor of osteopathy who has completed 200 hours of training is able in most states to perform acupuncture techniques. (To find a medical doctor trained in acupuncture, call the American Academy of Medical Acupuncture at 800-521-2262.)
To Find Out More:
Contact the American Association of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine at 888-500-7999.

Name: Dentist (DDS)
AKA: "Tooth doctor," oral surgeon (MD), peridontist, orthodontist
What They Do For You:
Your dentist can suggest and prescribe various methods to restore the moisture to your mouth that may have decreased due to Sjogren's syndrome or with age. She may also suggest daily dental care techniques if arthritis in the hands makes it difficult to brush or floss. Your dentist ay also prescribe adjustments or devices to relieve TMJ pain. A general dentist may refer you to a physical therapist or dental specialist (see AKA above) for further treatment.
What Else You Should Know:
If you've had joint replacement surgery or use steroid medication, alert your dentist to this before each exam. Many experts suggest pre-medicating before dental work that may cause bleeding.
To Find Out More:
Contact the American Dental Association at 312-440-2500.

Name: Nurse (RN, LPN, NP)
AKA: Registered nurse, licensed practical nurse, nurse practitioner
What They Do For You:
In addition to taking your blood pressure, drawing blood samples and providing other routine care, nurses function as patient educators and advocates. They may talk to you about side effects of medications, exercise and diet, and provide appropriate literature on these topics. Your nurse may serve as a liaison between you and your doctor who can "translate" a difficult to understand diagnosis or treatment recommendation.
What Else You Should Know:
Some of you may include a nurse practitioner as part of your health-care team. A nurse practitioner has an advanced degree and is qualified to interpret lab tests and prescribe medications for you.
To Find Out More:
Contact the American Nurses Association at 800-274-4ANA.

Name: Mental health professional (most commonly - PhD or MD, but also EdD or MSW)
AKA: therapist, counselor, psychologist, psychiatrist
What They Do For You:
Each helps you cope with the emotional repercussions of chronic illness such as depression, anxiety, anger or relationship problems. They may "prescribe" anything from antidepressants to support groups. A mental health professional addresses these issues in one-on-one therapy sessions and helps you manage pain and stress through relaxation, meditation, hypnosis or biofeedback.
What Else You Should Know:
Most mental health professionals can refer patients to a psychiatrist for antidepressants or other medications, when appropriate.
To Find Out More:
Contact the American Psychological Association at 800-374-2721.

Name: Social Worker
AKA: case manager
What They Do For You:
Social workers help you find practical solutions required for convalescence or life changes such as relocating, changing jobs or caring for an ill parent. If you're moving, from an home to an assisted living center, for example a social worker can refer you to appropriate community resources. If you're planning for the care of a spouse or parent, a social worker can also refer you to in-home care services.
What Else You Should Know:
Social workers also provide counseling services for people with a chronic illness.
To Find Out More:
Contact the National Association of Social Workers at 800-638-8799.

Name: Physician Assistant (PA, PA-C)
AKA: PA
What They Do For You:
Physicians assistants are licensed to perform most of the duties of physicians including performing physical examinations, diagnosing illnesses, interpreting lab tests and recommending surgical options. A PA, however, practices under the direction of a physician.
What Else You Should Know:
PAs practice in all areas of medicine, but most are found in primary care medicine settings - family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics, and obstetrics and gynocology.
To Find Out More:
Contact the American Academy of Physician Assistants at 703-836-2272

Name: Optometrist (OD) and Opthalmologist (MD)
AKA: "eye doctors"
What They Do For You:
Eye doctors will treat visual defects and can monitor for possible complications caused by your arthritis or medications. An optometrist can examine you for visual defects and prescribe glasses and contact lenses, prescribe medications and help you with eye problems (redness, dry eyes, iritis, etc.) that may be cause by inflammation or medications. An ophthalmologist can do those things and perform surgery.
What Else You Should Know:
An optometrist receives a Doctor of Optometry (OD) degree after successfully completing four years of college and four years in an approved college of optometry. Opthalmologists are medical doctors.
To Find Out More:
Contact the Academy of Opthalmology at 415-561-8500 or contact the American Optometric Association at 314-991-4100.

Name: Massage Therapist (LMT, CMT)
AKA: bodywork specialist
What They Can Do For You:
Massage therapy can relieve muscle tension or improve range of motion. Therapeutic massage can have pain-relieving benefits for many people with arthritis through relief of muscle tension.
What Else You Should Know:
A relaxation massage is not the same as a therapeutic massage. The American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) requires professional massage therapists to become nationally certified by obtaining 500 hours of  training.
To Find Out More:
Contact the AMTA at 888-843-2682.

Name: Orthopaedic Surgeon (MD)
AKA: orthopaedist, "bone doctor"
What They Do For You:
Orthopaedic surgeons evaluate and treat bone, joint, tendon and ligament disorders and diseases. Some specialize in particular types of surgery such as joint replacement or arthroscopy. Another doctor may refer you to an orthopaedic surgeon to determine if you are a  candidate for surgery.
What Else You Should Know:
Pediatric orthopaedic surgeons can treat juvenile arthritis; sports medicine orthopaedists treat sports-related injuries.
To Find Out More:
Contact the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons at 800-346-AAOS.

 

Other Specialists Who May Treat Your Child

What is a Pediatric Rheumatologist? (AAP)


What is a Pediatric Ophthalmologist? (AAP)


What is a Pediatric Surgeon? (AAP)


What is a Pediatric Orthopedic Surgeon? (AAP)


What is a Developmental Behavioral Pediatrician?  (AAP)


What is a Pediatric Allergist/Immunologist?  (AAP)


What is a Pediatric Endocrinologist?  (AAP)


What is a Pediatric Dentist? (AAP)


What is a Pediatric Dermatologist?  (AAP)


What is a Pediatric Gastroenterologist?  (AAP)


What is a Pediatric Neurologist?  (AAP)


What is a Pediatric Pulmonologist?  (AAP)


What is a Pediatric Nephrologist?  (AAP)


What is a Pediatric Radiologist?  (AAP)


What is a Pediatric Hematologist?  (AAP)


Guidelines to Pediatric Surgical Specialists (AAP)

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