Do Rheumatologists Treat Osteoarthritis?
A rheumatologist is a physician who has specialized skills and training in diagnosing and treating musculoskeletal conditions and systemic autoimmune conditions, which can affect the joints, bones and muscles throughout the body. Many of these conditions are highly complex and continually evolve, making them challenging to diagnose and treat. Therefore, specialist care can be very beneficial.
One of the most common conditions treated by rheumatologists is osteoarthritis. This chronic type of “wear and tear” arthritis progresses gradually over time, causing joint pain and stiffness due to:
- A breakdown of cartilage, which cushions the ends of the bones in a joint
- Bony changes in a joint
- Inflammation of joint lining tissue (synovium)
- The deterioration of tendons and ligaments
What Can a Rheumatologist Do for Osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis is a lifetime condition that cannot be cured or reversed. Therefore, the goals of treatment are to relieve pain and improve joint function. To accomplish this, a rheumatologist can recommend a personalized treatment plan, which may include:
- Weight loss (if appropriate) – Every pound of excess body weight increases the stress on arthritic joints, especially the knees and hips.
- Physical therapy – Targeted exercises can strengthen the muscles that support a degenerated joint and shift away some of the weight burden.
- Hot/cold therapy – A heating pad or ice pack can be applied to a painful joint as needed to enhance comfort.
- Medications – Pain relievers, such as acetaminophen, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, can be taken to reduce pain and inflammation. A stronger prescription narcotic may be recommended to address severe pain that does not respond to over-the-counter remedies.
- Joint injections – A powerful anti-inflammatory medication (corticosteroid) or lubricant (hyaluronic acid) can be injected directly into an arthritic joint.
- Surgery – A surgical procedure, such as an arthroscopic repair or joint replacement, may be considered to address severe joint damage or loss of function.
If you are living with osteoarthritis, take advantage of the collective expertise of the physicians at Advanced Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine in Houston, TX. Our practice integrates outstanding medical care and comprehensive services. Contact us to schedule an appointment with a rheumatologist today.