Internist/Family Practice Physician
A primary healthcare provider — an internist or family practice physician—should be your first stop if you experience any RA symptoms. He or she can perform tests and exams to help determine if you do in fact have RA, prescribe a preliminary round of medication, and refer you to a rheumatologist or other doctor for further treatment.
A rheumatologist is a physician with special training in treating diseases of the joints and connective tissues. If you are diagnosed with RA, your rheumatologist will determine the best way to treat you and monitor your symptoms and test results for changes or problems.
An orthopedist is a surgeon who specializes in conditions of the bones and joints. If your rheumatologist suspects joint damage, he or she may refer you to an orthopedist for further tests and surgery if necessary.
Physical therapists help people maintain and restore movement and function lost to injury, surgery, or disease. Physical therapists typically have post-baccalaureate degrees from programs accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Physical Therapy Education, and also must be licensed by the state in which they practice. If you have RA, a physical therapist will help you create an exercise program to help strengthen your muscles and restore movement to joints, and offer tips on reducing pain in your daily life.
Occupational therapists help people with mobility problems or other disabilities learn to perform everyday tasks more effectively. Occupational therapists typically have post-baccalaureate degrees from programs accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education, and also must be licensed by the state in which they practice. If you have RA, an occupational therapist can teach you ways to bend, grasp, and reach for things with less pain, and can also provide devices like splints and grabbing tools to help you in your daily life.