If you struggle with a rheumatic disease like rheumatoid arthritis or lupus, it is a good idea to see a rheumatologist. These specialists are incredibly knowledgeable about the latest medications and treatments to ease the symptoms of your disease and to keep it from progressing. But rheumatologists do more than just prescribe medications. Here are some other treatments they may recommend, depending on your symptoms and diagnosis.
Physical therapy is often thought of as being for injury rehabilitation or post-surgery rehab. But it can also be helpful for anyone with a rheumatic disorder. Your rheumatologist may refer you to a physical therapist, and then follow up with you to see how the physical therapy affects your symptoms. The physical therapist can guide you through exercises that strengthen the muscles around your sore joints. This allows your muscles to absorb more of the shock and force of your movement so your sore joints do not have to. They may also teach you some stretches you can perform when your joint or muscle pain is really flaring up. This gives you a way to get immediate relief throughout the day.
Cortisone is a corticosteroid that your body produces naturally. It helps reduce inflammation, which reduces pain. If you are having a really bad flare-up of joint pain in a particular joint, your rheumatologist may inject that joint directly with cortisone. This will ease inflammation within a day or two, which will help keep your joints from becoming permanently damaged by the flare-up. Cortisone injections themselves do hurt, but the pain only lasts for a few minutes. The relief afterward can be incredible and can last for a few months.
Surgery won't cure rheumatoid arthritis or another rheumatic disorder. But sometimes, a rheumatologist may recommend surgery to repair the damage that has already been done to your body by the rheumatic condition. The most common surgeries recommended for these disorders are joint replacements. When your knees, hips, or ankles become so arthritic that other remedies are not keeping your pain under control, a joint replacement can help keep you mobile. Your rheumatologist will generally collaborate with the surgeon who actually performs the joint replacement.
Rheumatologists do generally prescribe medications for their patients because medications are the key to keeping rheumatic disorders under control. However, there are also some other, non-medication treatments that your doctor can recommend if needed.