Although an accurate diagnosis is important in treating arthritis, often the symptoms can be treated even if the exact nature of the condition remains unclear. Initial treatment options for most forms of arthritis include medications to reduce pain and swelling, exercise, as well as other lifestyle modifications and supportive procedures.
Many times, a comprehensive treatment plan will involve different health care professionals. In addition to your primary care physician, you may work with a doctor who specializes in treating people with arthritis — called a rheumatologist. You may also consult a physical therapist and an occupational therapist, who will help you develop ways of moving and perhaps an exercise routine to maintain and improve joint functioning. They will also help with the proper use of assistive devices.
If there is significant damage to the joints that occurs despite medical therapy, you might be referred to an orthopedic surgeon. This type of doctor can offer surgical treatment of disorders of the joints, skeleton, muscles and other supporting structures, such as the ligaments, tendons and cartilage.