Arthritis Specialists And Support Services
In addition to your primary care physician or your general practitioner, you may have occasion to consult with specialists. A rheumatologist is specially trained in the diagnosis and treatment of arthritis and related disorders. An orthopedic surgeon specializes in the surgical treatment of bones, joints and soft tissues (ligaments, tendons and muscles).
Other professionals can make living with arthritis an easier proposition. From time to time, you may want to talk with a dietitian about ways to lose weight, because excess pounds means more stress on the weight-bearing joints. A personal athletic trainer can help design an exercise program that allows you to remain active despite arthritis. A physical therapist who is knowledgeable about arthritis will be able to design an appropriate home exercise program and teach you about pain management. An occupational therapist will help you find ways to manage ordinary tasks around your home and work and provide special devices to help with activities of daily living. With the help of these professionals, you can learn about joint protection, energy conservation and proper body mechanics — how to place your body for a given task, such as carrying a grocery bag, sitting at your computer, getting in and out of a car or combing your hair. Podiatrists have expertise in arthritis involving the foot and ankle and may suggest a treatment plan that includes shoe inserts (orthotics), exercises, adjustments in the type of shoes you wear, cortisone injections or even surgery.
Arthritis brings, in addition to its physical implications, emotional and social stress as well. Consequently, a mental health professional — a psychiatrist, psychologist or social worker — may be able to help you sort out the feelings and complications that inevitably arise from living with a chronic disease.
In most communities, there is a range of support services for people who suffer with various forms of arthritis. Many are offered through hospitals, medical clinics or local Arthritis Foundation chapters. These services frequently include educational classes, home study courses, video tapes, libraries and other informational assistance to help people learn to listen to and cope with their disease.
In addition, support groups can provide the opportunity to learn practical ways of dealing with your condition, including how to protect joints, how to sleep comfortably, how to take a bath, how to get up after falling and how to cope with the emotional and physical pain of this chronic illness. For more information on support services, contact your local chapter of the Arthritis Foundation or call the national headquarters at (800) 568-4045.