The Rheumatoid Arthritis Treatment Team

By

Beth W. Orenstein

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Group of Doctors

Your primary care doctor may have diagnosed your rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and started you on treatment. But because RA is a progressive disease and new treatments to stop that progression are being introduced all the time, your care should also include a rheumatologist. A rheumatologist specializes in treating rheumatoid arthritis and other diseases of the bones, joints, and muscles. Your primary care doctor and your rheumatologist will work together. Your rheumatologist will design your personal RA treatment plan, and your primary care doctor will manage other aspects of your health.

Depending on your symptoms and any difficulties you're having, you might find it helpful to add other health care professionals to your RA treatment team. This can help you better manage your RA, relieve your joint pain and swelling, and treat any complications that interfere with day-to-day life. Your employer's insurance plan may refer you to a chronic disease manager (CDM) who can help you navigate around whatever challenges emerge. CDMs have the experience, the resources, and the contacts to help you thrive in the face of RA.

Your RA treatment team might include these professionals:

A personal trainer. Exercise is an extremely important part of maintaining your health when you have RA. It helps keep your joints flexible and you mobile and independent. A personal trainer can design an exercise program that you will enjoy and stick to. The right plan will protect joints and not put too much strain on them.

A physical therapist. If your joint pain is limiting your movement, a physical therapist can show you ways to move that will help reduce your joint pain. A physical therapist can also give you specific exercises to increase mobility.

An occupational therapist. If you have a hard time with daily activities, an occupational therapist (OT) can show you exercises and ways of accomplishing tasks that can help reduce the strain that RA puts on your joints. An OT may fit you for splints, braces, or other devices that will allow you to rest your joints. This specialist can also show you ways to conserve your energy when you’re feeling fatigued.

Watch Identifying Treatment Options