Understanding the type of your joint pain is important when researching your treatment options. Mild joint pain may be treated with over the counter medications, whereas severe joint pain may require surgery. Be sure to discuss treatment options with your healthcare professional.
Diagnosis of advanced arthritis
In addition to a review of your medical history and a physical examination of affected joints, your doctor may order medical tests. X-rays can be taken to see the extent of the damage to the joint. If there is any question about which kind of arthritis you have, blood tests may be ordered. Your physician may order other diagnostic procedures, such as a CAT scan (computerized axial tomography) or an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging).
Assessing Your Treatment Options for Advanced or Severe Arthritis
Finding your way through the health system and the different medical specialties can be confusing. There are a number of different specialists who may be involved in the care of a patient with advanced arthritis. Your primary care physician can guide you to the appropriate medical professional to treat your advanced arthritis.
How do you know when your arthritis has advanced to the point that you should talk with your physician about the possibility of consulting other medical professionals?
Medical professionals who treat advanced arthritis
- Orthopaedic surgeons: Orthopaedic surgeons treat diseases and injuries of the musculoskeletal system. They provide long-term treatment of arthritis through the use of surgical and non-surgical treatments.
- Rheumatologists: A rheumatologist specializes in the treatment of arthritis and other rheumatic diseases that may affect joints, muscles, bones, skin, and other tissues. In addition to four years of medical school and three years of specialized training in internal medicine or pediatrics, a rheumatologist has had an additional two or three years of specialized training in the field of rheumatology.
- Physiatrists: A physiatrist is a doctor who specializes in physical medicine and rehabilitation. This doctor uses non-surgical treatments such as therapy, drugs or devices that help maximize the function of the patient’s musculoskeletal system.
- Physical Therapists: Treatment for advanced arthritis often includes exercise for patients who have been immobilized and lack flexibility, strength or endurance. Treatment therapies for patients with advanced arthritis include electrical stimulation, hot packs or cold compresses, ultrasound to relieve pain and reduce swelling, and traction or deep tissue massage to relieve pain. Physical therapists also teach patients how to use assistive devices such as crutches and wheelchairs.
- Occupational Therapists: Occupational therapists work with individuals with severe arthritis to help them improve their ability to perform tasks in their daily living and working environments and help them compensate for permanent loss of function. The goal of these therapists is to help advanced arthritis sufferers have independent, productive, and satisfying lives.
- Chiropractors: Chiropractors attempt to alleviate the pain associated with arthritis through joint manipulation. The effectiveness of such treatments for advanced arthritis patients is controversial — consult your primary care physician for guidance.
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