Osteoarthritis, also known as degenerative joint disease, is the most common type of arthritis. Over time, osteoarthritis appears as joint cartilage erodes. It is generally progressive, but can be stemmed by taking management steps.
Engorged, puffy, creaky joints are typical of osteoarthritis. Oftentimes, the joints affected include the shoulder, elbow, hand, foot and ankle, hip, spine and knee. Symptoms usually start later in life and progress slowly, starting on one side of the body and spreading to the other side over time. In general, whole-body symptoms do not occur in patients.
When painful joints are inflamed, the physician must differentiate osteoarthritis from other forms of arthritis, like rheumatoid arthritis.
Doctors Who Treat Osteoarthritis
Initial diagnosis and treatment of osteoarthritis will most likely be done by a patient’s regular doctor. Depending on the patient’s age and gender, that physician might be one of the following:
- General Practitioner: Takes care of the overall health of the patient and often act as a liaison between the patient, family and other specialists. They are generally well familiar with the patient, having followed the patient over a period of time.
- Internist: Specializes in the organ systems of adults.
- Gynecologist: Deals with women’s health.
- Geriatrician: Focuses on the health and diseases of the elderly patient.
After a preliminary diagnosis has been made, a referral will be made to a specialist who will confirm the diagnosis and concentrate on improving the quality of life, including providing relief from pain and enhancing range of motion for the joint affected. These providers may include:
- Rheumatologist: Doctor who focuses on diseases of the bones, joints, tendons and muscles.
- Orthopedist: Physician who focus on the musculoskeletal system, including joint problems and replacements.
- Physiatrist: Concentrates on rehabilitation therapy and physical medicine to restore the functions of the patient. They assess and treat those suffering from pain, disabilities and lack of function.
- Physical Therapist: Formulates personalized exercise programs to strengthen muscles around the joints, helping to increase movement range and diminish pain.
- Occupational Therapist: Helps the patient formulate new techniques to perform daily activities so that there is less joint stress.
- Holistic Practitioner: Views the body as a whole, considering physical, mental and spiritual components. Herbs and nutritional supplements are considered in addition to meditation, cleansing, diet and exercise programs.
- Acupuncturist: Relieves pain and enhances healing through the ancient traditional Chinese medicine technique using special needles inserted and manipulated in various body energy zones.