Information provided by the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases
Diagnosing and treating rheumatoid arthritis requires a team effort
involving the patient and several types of health care professionals.
The primary doctor to treat arthritis may be an internist, a doctor who
specializes in the diagnosis and medical treatment of adults, or a
rheumatologist, a doctor who specializes in arthritis and other diseases
of the bones, joints, and muscles.
As treatment progresses, other professionals often help. These may include the following:
Orthopaedists: Surgeons who specialize in the treatment of, and surgery for, bone and joint diseases.
Physical therapists: Health professionals who work with patients to improve joint function.
Occupational therapists: Health professionals who teach ways to protect joints, minimize pain, perform activities of daily living, and conserve energy.
Dietitians: Health professionals who teach ways to use a good diet to improve health and maintain a healthy weight.
Nurse educators: Nurses who specialize in helping patients understand their overall condition and implement their treatment plans.
Psychologists: Health professionals who seek to
help patients cope with difficulties in the home and workplace that may
result from their medical conditions.
What You Can Do: The Importance of Self-Care
Although health care professionals can prescribe or recommend treatments
to help patients manage their rheumatoid arthritis, the real key to
living well with the disease lies with the patients themselves. Research
shows that people who take part in their own care report less pain and
make fewer doctor visits. They also enjoy a better quality of life.
Self-management programs teach about rheumatoid arthritis and its
treatments, exercise and relaxation approaches, communication between
patients and health care providers, and problem solving. Research on
these programs has shown that they help people:
Understand the disease
Reduce their pain while remaining active
Cope physically, emotionally, and mentally
Feel greater control over the disease and build a sense of
confidence in the ability to function and lead full, active, and
For more information about rheumatoid arthritis and other musculoskeletal health issues, visit www.niams.nih.gov.
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