Rheumatologist Vs Orthopedist: What Kind Of Doctor For Joint Pain Is Right For You
Youve been dealing with joint pain all over for as long as you can remember.
You suddenly started feeling a sharp pain in one of your joints.
Your joints ache when it rains or the weather changes.
Your joint never felt quite the same after that one injury now you live with constant, nagging pain.
Your joint pain is so severe, it keeps you up at night.
Any of these sound familiar?
If so, its probably time to see a joint specialist. Before you book an appointment with a rheumatologist or orthopedic specialist, though, you should first see your primary care physician for a general diagnosis. Even though some insurance providers dont require a referral from a PCP to see a joint specialist, your PCP may recommend a completely different type of joint specialist than you might have consulted otherwise. Your PCP should be able to point you in the right direction based on your symptoms.
That said, its understandable that you want to be as informed as possible about your choice of doctor. The following information will give you a better idea about joint paint, its causes and what kind of doctor for joint pain may be right for you.
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Whats The Difference Between A Rheumatologist And An Orthopedist
Rheumatologists and orthopedists both treat rheumatic diseases, but in different ways.
Generally speaking, rheumatologists treat rheumatic diseases with nonsurgical interventions, whereas orthopedists perform surgeries to improve function and quality of life.
You may want to see an orthopedist if you:
- have joint or musculoskeletal pain related to an injury
- have hip or knee pain that gets worse when you put weight on these joints
- have severe joint pain that interferes with your day-to-day life
- have moderate or advanced arthritis in your hips or knees
- have joint pain that hasnt responded to previous treatment
- need a joint replacement
A good rule of thumb: Unless you have suffered a traumatic injury that requires surgery, see a rheumatologist before you consult an orthopedist.
What Does A Rheumatologist Do
Rheumatology studies the causes, impact, and treatments of inflammatory autoimmune disorders on the human body. In an autoimmune disorder, a patients own immune system malfunctions and turns its attack on his own healthy body tissue, rather than on invading or external disease agents.
Rheumatologists can be internists or pediatricians who have additional training and qualifications. They have the experience to diagnose and treat many of the over 100 systemic forms of adult, juvenile, and temporal arthritis. They treat mechanical joint, bone, muscle, and soft and connective tissue diseases.
Often referred to as arthritis doctors, rheumatologists treat many other diseases too.
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Arthritis Doctors In Reno Nv
If youre in need of treatment in Reno, Nevada, or the surrounding area, turn to the trusted arthritis doctors at Tahoe Fracture & Orthopedic Medical Clinic. The skilled orthopedists on our team have experience treating a wide range of musculoskeletal conditions, including arthritis, and they can help put you on the path toward relief. Contact us today or make an appointment using our online scheduling tool.
Whether youre a new or returning patient, you can request an appointment by completing our simple online form. Well get back to you within 48 hours.
Do I Need To Go To A Rheumatologist Or An Orthopedist
With so much overlap between medical disciplines and specializations, it is often difficult for an individual to discern which type of doctor to see for their problem.
This is especially true for orthopedics and rheumatology, as both of these types of physicians treat joint pain.
Orthopedists are surgeons who address bone and joint diseases and injuries, such as arthritis, osteoarthritis, and body trauma. Rheumatologists are internal medicine physicians who focus on autoimmune conditions and the non-surgical treatment of such diseases, such as arthritis, where medications and/or physical therapy can provide the proper treatment.
It is important to understand the areas these two specialties cover in order to make an informed decision.
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What Are Some Red Flags To Watch Out For When Picking A Rheumatologist
Be wary of someone who doesnt look you in the eye eye contact is crucial, Ginsberg believes.
If the doctors head is buried in your chart or electronic health record during your appointment, thats a red flag. You want someone who relates to you, not your chart or lab results, he says.
Another major red flag is when doctors, nurses, or other members of the office staff dont respond to your phone calls.
What To Expect During A Routine Visit
A routine appointment with a rheumatologist varies depending on the condition or complaint they are helping treat. A standard appointment may include the rheumatologist:
- reviewing a persons medical and family histories as well as the results of any previous testing or laboratory work
- performing a physical exam to look for any signs of systemic inflammation
- specifically examining any joints, muscles, or bones that feel swollen, stiff, or painful
- ordering blood work or other laboratory tests, such as an X-ray or an MRI scan
- making treatment recommendations, or waiting to review the lab work before recommending medications or physical therapy
Many people experience joint and muscle pain from time to time. However, people who notice pain or stiffness that does not improve within a few weeks may want to consider visiting their primary care doctor.
A primary care doctor will evaluate a persons symptoms and decide whether or not they should refer them to a rheumatologist for further evaluation.
A primary care doctor may refer someone to a rheumatologist when:
Rheumatologists are medical doctors who specialize in diagnosing and treating rheumatic diseases, including arthritis and autoimmune conditions.
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Internal Medicine Doctor In Tucson Arizona
If you have arthritis, the best thing you can do is find a supportive, knowledgeable, and experienced doctor to help you feel your best. Dr. Robert E. Lending is a board-certified internal medicine physician with decades of experience in the medical field. He has a lot of experience treating patients with conditions like arthritis and would love to help you.
To make an appointment with Dr. Lending, call 795-4291 or request an appointment online now. We look forward to welcoming you to our clinic in Tucson!
What Kind Of Training Do Rheumatologists Have
Becoming a rheumatologist requires completing 4 years of medical school, where they receive training as a medical doctor or osteopath. Thats followed by 3 years as a medical resident specializing in internal medicine, pediatrics, or both.
To complete their formal education, a rheumatologist spends 2 to 3 years in a rheumatology fellowship, learning about chronic musculoskeletal and autoimmune conditions and how to treat them.
Once theyve completed the fellowship, the rheumatologist must pass a certification exam administered by the American Board of Internal Medicine.
Rheumatologists must take a recertification exam every 10 years. Theyre also required to take continuing medical education classes to retain their board certification.
A rheumatologist can treat any of the more than 100 known rheumatic diseases and musculoskeletal conditions and injuries, including:
- rheumatoid arthritis
- other autoimmune disorders
A rheumatologist will gather your complete medical and family history, perform a physical examination, and run certain types of testing.
Rheumatologists commonly test people for the presence of excessive antibody production for suspected autoimmune disorders. To assess musculoskeletal problems, they may order:
- CT scans
- MRI scans
All of this information helps them work with you to develop the right treatment plan for you.
Treatment may include:
Rheumatologists also can talk with you about:
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A Rheumatologist Shortage Is Looming
There are about 5,000 practicing rheumatologists in America, with about half working independently and half in academic settings or working with industry to improve drug treatments. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, thats already a shortage. It is predicted to get worse by 2025 as current rheumatologists retire and not enough new ones come on board.
What Is A Dermatologist
A dermatologist is a doctor who primarily treats conditions related to the skin. This also includes conditions that affect the nails and hair. According to the American Academy of Dermatology , dermatologists work with more than 3,000 related diseases, including psoriasis.
Dermatologists are often the first points of contact for those with PsA. This is especially the case for those who have psoriasis, but havent yet received a diagnosis for the arthritis component. A dermatologist treating a someone with psoriasis might ask about joint pain or stiffness, as these are common indicators of possible PsA.
In treating PsA, a dermatologist may prescribe topical ointments to minimize itchiness and pain as well as prescription medication. Light therapy might also be used in the dermatologists office.
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Role Of The Rheumatologist
After consulting with your primary care doctor, it may be that your diagnosis is not clear-cut. Or you may seem to have a complicated case. At that point, it may be wise to see a rheumatologist.
A rheumatologist is a physician who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of rheumatic diseases, a group of disorders characterized by chronic, often intermittent pain affecting the joints or connective tissues.
Rheumatologists have additional education and training, making them a better choice for complicated cases. As the patient, you may want to a rheumatologist if:
- Your pain is unrelenting.
- Your symptoms are persistent or worsening despite treatment.
- Your doctor is unable to diagnose the underlying cause.
- Your symptoms are flaring more frequently or more severely.
- You are less able to handle tasks you use to be able to manage.
- You are becoming increasingly homebound.
- Your condition is lowering your quality of life.
A rheumatologist can also consult on a limited basis to offer a second opinion about whether your treatment plan is appropriate and optimal for your condition. Your primary care doctor wonât resent that you want a second opinion they will more than likely encourage it.
Once you have your second opinion, you can return to your primary doctor for regular follow-up appointments.
A rheumatologist does not perform surgery. If surgery is indicated, an orthopedic surgeon would be your best option.
You Have A Joint Out Of Phase
Rest often goes a long way toward relief, says Dr. Burg When this conservative approach fails, it may be a sign of a deeper problem.
You probably know your baseline of pain pretty well. You know you may have 15 to 20 minutes of stiffness in the morning, for example. But if you suddenly have a red-hot, swollen knee, wrist or other isolated joint especially if thats not typical for you it may be cause for concern.
We call this a joint out of phase because it differs from your usual aches and pains, explains Dr. Burg. Excessive redness and swelling raise red flags because they often are signs of infection.
Infections can be serious business, especially if you have conditions like rheumatoid arthritis or lupus and are taking medications that weaken your immune system. If this happens to you, especially if you have symptoms such as a fever, see your doctor. Its critical that any infection is identified and treated properly, so it doesnt spread.
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Whether A Rheumatologist Has Been Your Partner In Health For Years Or Youre Pondering Seeing One For The First Time Heres Some Things To Know About These Quite Special Specialists
Heres the textbook definition of a rheumatologist from the American College of Rheumatology:
A rheumatologist is an internist or pediatrician who received further training in the diagnosis and treatment of musculoskeletal disease and systemic autoimmune conditions commonly referred to as rheumatic diseases. These diseases can affect the joints, muscles, and bones causing pain, swelling, stiffness, and deformity.
After they receive their MD or OD, rheumatologists spend three years training to become an internist or pediatrician, followed by two to three more years in a rheumatology fellowship.
Like all physicians, they are lifelong learners who take continuing medical education to keep up to date in their field especially with the emergence of new and complex treatments such as biologics.
Rheumatologists treat many similar joint diseases as orthopedists, but they dont do surgery. Many common diseases that they treat include rheumatoid arthritis, gout, lupus, osteoarthritis, and chronic back pain, but theres a lot about rheumatology you might not know. Read on to learn more about what rheumatologists do and when it makes sense to see one.
They Are Medical Detectives
Your primary care physician may send you to a rheumatologist as a last resort after no one else has figured out whats going on.
We treat lots of rare diseases as well as more common diseases that sometimes present in unusual ways that make it harder to make the diagnosis. We have to take into consideration every system of the body, not just one organ. We do lots of detective work and think about patterns in your symptoms, Dr. Marchetta says.
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Arthritis Of The Foot
Arthritis refers to the swelling and inflammation within a joint. This Swelling of the feet and foot pain caused by arthritis makes walking and exercise very uncomfortable. Many treatments are available from the best podiatrist in New York, including orthotics, oral medications, joint injections, and sometimes surgery. Several different types of arthritis can affect your feet, such as:
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Conservative Therapy Doesnt Work After A Week
If you have a minor flare-up of aches and pains, conservative home therapy often works well. This can include ice or heat as needed, over-the-counter pain relievers and periods of rest.
The Arthritis Foundation suggests trying acupuncture, massage therapy, tai chi and yoga as a few options to help relieve your arthritis pain.
If your pain doesnt respond after a week, its worth a trip to the doctors office for a thorough checkup and diagnosis.
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The Importance Of Early Diagnosis
Many people are not aware that arthritis itself is not a diagnosis. It is a general word used to describe over a hundred diseases and related conditions. If you actually have arthritis, knowing the kind of arthritis is the first step towards receiving the right treatment and care for your condition.
Some types of arthritis have to be treated early. If the condition you have can result in permanent joint damage, receiving treatment on time may help ensure your joint stays functional and avert other serious health complications.
On the other hand, irregular or minor joint aches may not demand a special or immediate doctor visit. Although it is better and safer to discuss your joint health and risks of arthritis early with your doctor, you may still be able to postpone the discussion until your next checkup.
When You Know You Have The Right Match
Traci Lynn Martin, a neonatal ICU nurse and expedition kayaker from Lees Summit, Missouri, found out she had rheumatoid arthritis, she went to a few rheumatologists before she found the right chemistry.
The first person I saw I didnt like, Martin says, because I didnt feel like he was listening to me. He had a formula with questions and it wasnt personalized. It was important for me to stay active, to be able to do my triathlons, and long distance kayaking that I had done my whole life.
Friends referred her to other specialists, but she knew right away when she found the right rheumatologist. He sits down and doesnt rush in and out and doesnt leave the room until I am happy, Martin says. I walked out of there so happy after the first visit, I felt like I had someone who was listening to me for the first time since my diagnosis.
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What Does An Orthopedist Do
Orthopedists handle the disorders, injuries, prevention, treatment, and repair of the skeletal system and its related joints, ligaments, and muscles.
Orthopedists and orthopedic surgeons are specially trained in the diagnosis and treatment of bone and joint disease. They use an array of testing modalities to aid in diagnosis and treatment.
When Should You See A Rheumatologist
Muscle and joint pain are not uncommon, but if you have pain that lasts for more than a few days, visit your primary care physician.
Your doctor can evaluate whether youre experiencing temporary pain from an injury or other inflammatory causes, or if an underlying rheumatic condition may be involved that requires a referral to a rheumatologist.
If the pain youre experiencing gets worse over a short period of time, thats a good indicator that you should see a rheumatologist.
Likewise, if your symptoms decrease with initial treatment, like pain medication, but return once the treatment stops, it may be time to seek out a specialist.
You may want to schedule an appointment with a rheumatologist if you:
- experience pain in multiple joints
- have new joint pain thats not related to a known injury
- have joint or muscle pain accompanied by fever, fatigue, rashes, morning stiffness, or chest pain
- have muscle pain with or without other symptoms
- are over age 50 and have recurring headaches or muscle aches
Many rheumatic conditions are hereditary, so you should also let your doctor and rheumatologist know if you have any family history of autoimmune or rheumatic disease.
If you have persistent joint, bone, or muscle pain, dont delay seeking treatment. Joint stiffness that lasts more than 30 minutes, especially if its worse in the morning after long periods of inactivity, or any joint swelling should also be promptly evaluated by a doctor.
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