Your Arthritis Health Care Team

Treating arthritis may require a variety of health professionals.

Building the right health-care team is a crucial step in managing your arthritis and your pain. In creating your team, you may need professionals with different kinds of expertise. Here are some of the many people you may recruit to your team over the years, depending on your needs. 

Primary Care Physician 
Primary care physicians provide first contact and continuing medical care, including the diagnosis and treatment of acute and chronic illnesses, health promotion, disease prevention, health maintenance, counseling and patient education. Primary care activities are performed and managed in collaboration with other health-care professionals. 

Rheumatologists are physicians in the subspecialty of internal medicine and pediatrics that diagnose and treat arthritis and other diseases of the joints, muscles and bones. The diseases they treat include rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, lupus, fibromyalgia, regional musculoskeletal problems, osteoporosis and gout. 

Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine 
Although osteopaths have traditionally been family physicians, today they practice in every specialty field in medicine. Doctors of osteopathic medicine are licensed to practice the full scope of medicine and surgery with the same rights, privileges and responsibilities as traditional MDs or allopathic physicians. 

Orthopaedic Surgeon 
Orthopaedic surgeons are physicians who specialize in managing conditions involving the musculoskeletal system. Orthopaedic surgeons use both surgical and nonsurgical means to treat bone and joint trauma, sports injuries, arthritis, infections, tumors and congenital disorders. Some orthopaedic surgeons specialize in specific joint areas (shoulder, hip, knee) and in certain types of surgery (joint replacement or arthroscopy).

Chiropractors focus on the relationship between the skeleton, muscles, nerves and the patient’s health. Chiropractors believe that health can be improved and preserved by making adjustments to these structures, particularly to the spinal column. They do not prescribe drugs or perform surgical procedures. 

Dermatologists are medical doctors who deal with diseases of the skin, hair and nails. If you have psoriatic arthritis, your skin disease may be treated by a dermatologist.

Neurologists are specialist physicians who are trained to diagnose and treat neurological disorders of the brain, spinal cord, nerves or muscles. 

Registered nurses are health-care professionals who work independently or as part of a team to assess, plan, implement and evaluate care of individuals, families and communities so they may attain, maintain or recover optimal health and quality of life. 

Nurse Practitioner 
Nurse practitioners are registered nurses with additional training to allow them to provide expanded practice in family, women’s health, pediatrics, adult, acute care and other areas. The core philosophy of the field is individualized care focusing on the effects of illness on the lives of patients and their families, disease prevention, wellness, patient education and advocacy activities. 

Occupational Therapist 
Occupational therapists are trained to promote health by enabling people to perform meaningful and purposeful activities. Occupational therapists work with individuals who have mental, physical, developmental and/or emotionally disabling conditions using treatments that develop, recover or maintain activities of daily living. 

Ophthalmology is a branch of medicine that diagnoses and treats disorders of the eye. People with inflammatory forms of arthritis, in particular those with juvenile idiopathic arthritis, need to see an ophthalmologist regularly to check for signs of uveitis. 

Pain Specialist 
Pain specialists use an interdisciplinary approach for diagnosing and managing acute and chronic pain. The typical pain management team includes medical practitioners (anesthesiologists, neurologists and neurosurgeons) clinical psychologists, physical therapists, occupational therapists and nurse practitioners. 

A pharmacist’s emphasis is on providing safe and effective medication use. They dispense medications in pharmacies and other locations and assist in the overall pharmaceutical care needs of individuals including drug education, counseling, compliance and cost issues. 

Psychiatrists are physicians who specialize in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of mental illnesses, including mood and anxiety disorders. Their training enables them to understand the body’s complex relationship between physical and psychological causes of both mental and physical distress. 

Psychologists have a doctoral degree in psychology and perform psychological therapy, testing and research in clinical, private and school settings. Psychologists do not prescribe medications. 

Physiatrists (rehabilitation medicine specialists) are physicians who focus on functional abilities and quality of life in those with physical impairments or disabilities. Physiatrists specialize in restoring optimal function to people with injuries to the muscles, bones, tissues and nervous system. 

Physical Therapist  
Physical therapists are health-care professionals who focus on the management of impairments and disabilities through the promotion of mobility, functional ability and quality of life. Their care activities include evaluation, diagnosis and physical interventions including therapeutic exercise and the application of modalities. 

Physician Assistant  
Physician assistants are health-care professionals who provide services that were traditionally performed by physicians. They conduct physical exams, diagnose and treat illnesses, order and interpret tests, counsel on preventive health care, assist in surgery and write prescriptions. Physician assistants have their own medical licenses but do work with collaborative physician supervision. 

Podiatrists diagnose and treat disorders of the foot, ankle and lower leg. Podiatric physicians can specialize in different areas including surgery, sports medicine, biomechanics, geriatrics, pediatrics, internal medicine, diabetes, orthopedics or primary care.

Registered Dietician 
Registered dieticians promote the understanding of the effects of nutrition and the impact of food on health and well-being including diet, food preparation and nutritional counseling. 

Sleep Specialist  
Sleep specialists focus on the diagnosis and therapy of sleep disturbances, including primary sleep disorders such as sleep apnea as well as the role and quality of sleep in other conditions like arthritis and fibromyalgia.


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