National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases
Who Treats Osteoarthritis?
Treating arthritis often requires a multidisciplinary or team
approach. Many types of health professionals care for people with arthritis.
You may choose a few or more of the following professionals to be part of your
health care team:
Primary care physicians: doctors who treat
patients before they are referred to other specialists in the health care
Rheumatologists: doctors who specialize in
treating arthritis and related conditions that affect joints, muscles, and
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
Physiatrists (rehabilitation specialists):
medical doctors who help patients make the most of their physical
Licensed acupuncture therapists: health
professionals who reduce pain and improve physical functioning by inserting
fine needles into the skin at specific points on the body.
Psychologists: health professionals who seek
to help patients cope with difficulties in the home and workplace resulting
from their medical conditions.
Social workers: professionals who assist
patients with social challenges caused by disability, unemployment, financial
hardships, home health care, and other needs resulting from their medical
What You Can Do: The Importance of Self-Care and a Good-Health Attitude
While health care professionals can prescribe or recommend
treatments to help you manage your arthritis, the real key to living well with
the disease is you. Research shows that people with osteoarthritis who take
part in their own care report less pain and make fewer doctor visits. They also
enjoy a better quality of life.
Living well and enjoying good health despite arthritis requires
an everyday lifelong commitment. Following are six habits worth committing
1. Get educated: To live well with
osteoarthritis, it pays to learn as much as you can about the disease. Three
kinds of programs help people understand osteoarthritis, learn selfcare, and
improve their good-health attitude. They are:
- patient education programs
- arthritis self-management programs
- arthritis support groups.
These programs teach people about osteoarthritis, its
treatments, exercise and relaxation, patient and health care provider
communication, and problem solving. Research has shown that people who
participate in these programs are more likely to have positive outcomes.
Self-Management Programs Do
People with osteoarthritis find that self-management programs
- understand the disease
- reduce pain while remaining active
- cope physically, emotionally, and mentally
- have greater control over the disease
- build confidence in their ability to live an active, independent life.
2. Stay active: Regular physical activity
plays a key role in self-care and wellness. Three types of exercise are
important in osteoarthritis management. The first type, strengthening
exercises, help keep or increase muscle strength. Strong muscles help
support and protect joints affected by arthritis. The second type,
aerobic conditioning exercises, improve cardiovascular
fitness, help control weight, and improve overall function. The third type,
range-of-motion exercises, help reduce stiffness and maintain
or increase proper joint movement and flexibility.