Best Rheumatologist

Rheumatologists are considered to be medical detectives. If your primary care physician is having trouble figuring out what your problem is, they are likely to send you to a rheumatologist as the last resort.

If you are feeling an onset of general musculoskeletal pain from time to time that lasts a couple of days, it might not be much of a problem. However, persistent pain in the joints, muscles, and bones in the areas of the neck and back may be a sign you need to visit a rheumatologist. An early diagnosis and treatment of such conditions are essential, but you are only likely to book an appointment with the best rheumatologist if you know what they are and what they do.

So the question that arises is what is a rheumatologist? And what does a rheumatologist do?

What is a Rheumatologist?

The American College of Rheumatology explains what a rheumatologist is in a very comprehensive manner. According to them, a rheumatologist is an internist or pediatrician who has specialized in the diagnosis and treatment of systemic autoimmune diseases or musculoskeletal diseases. These are known as rheumatic diseases and can cause pain, swelling, rigidity, and/or deformity in the joints, bones, organs, and supporting muscles.

A rheumatologist has an education of around 8 years after their undergraduate degree. After completing their fellowship, they continue their medical education to stay updated with the ever-evolving field and its complex treatments.

What Does a Rheumatologist Treat?

You may wonder whether rheumatologists and orthopedists have the same job. Both the doctors treat similar conditions, but unlike orthopedists, rheumatologists do not perform surgeries. The best rheumatologists put their training into action by quickly finding the correct diagnosis and beginning a suitable treatment for the diagnosed condition. There are over 100 diseases commonly treated by them, including:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis (RA)
  • Gout
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE)
  • Osteoarthritis (OA)
  • Osteoporosis
  • Osteopenia
  • Chronic neck and back pain
  • Vasculitis
  • Bursitis
  • Tendinitis
  • Sjogren’s Syndrome
  • Scleroderma
  • Antiphospholipid Syndrome (APS)
  • Psoriatic arthritis
  • Spondyloarthropathies
  • Myositis
  • Sarcoidosis
  • Polymyalgia Rheumatica (PMR)
  • Temporal Arteritis or Giant Cell Arteritis
  • Lyme arthritis
  • Nerve impingements, such as sciatica, cervical radiculopathy, carpal tunnel syndrome, etc.
What is Rheumatologist

Difference between a Rheumatologist and an Orthopedist

Now that you know what a rheumatologist does, you must be wondering whether they are any different from orthopedists. Both these physicians treat rheumatic diseases. Orthopedists perform surgeries to treat the diagnosed condition, whereas rheumatologists make use of other means, such as oral and intra-arterial medications, physical therapy, etc.

You should visit an orthopedist if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Unusual and severe joint pain that seems to interfere with your regular activities of life
  • Moderate or advanced arthritis in your knee or hip joints
  • Joint pain which a rheumatologist has been unable to treat
  • Musculoskeletal or joint pain that is related to an injury
  • Pain in the knee or hip that worsens if you put pressure on it

However, the usual protocol that is followed is visiting the best rheumatologist in town, and then consulting an orthopedist, if your rheumatologist deems it necessary. In case of a traumatic injury, which leaves you in doubt of any requirement of surgery, you may visit the orthopedist first.

When to See a Rheumatologist?

It is imperative to visit a primary care physician if your muscle and joint pain last more than a few days. A doctor is best suited to figure out whether your symptoms are those of a rheumatoid condition or are a result of a casual muscle or bone injury. They may also refer you to the best rheumatologist they know if they feel the need.

In case the treatment prescribed by your general physician doesn’t seem to be working and you have noticed an increased amount of pain over a short period, you should see a rheumatologist on your own. In other cases where your pain decreases during the course of treatment but returns once the treatment is over, you will need to refer to a rheumatologist. The following are the signs for you to see a specialist.

  • Pain in multiple joints, such as the shoulder, ankle, knee, or hip
  • Joint swelling coupled with the pain
  • Recent sprains or strains of knee, ankle, or any other joint by unknown means
  • Unusual pain in your spine
  • Arthritis or any other painful condition of the joints, such as gout
  • The increased rigidity of fingers and/or other joints
  • An onset of tendinitis
  • Fever, overwhelming fatigue, unusual rashes, chest pain, or morning stiffness
  • Any chronic illness without a unifying diagnosis
  • Recurring headaches or muscular pain at the age of 50 or above
  • Tested positive for antinuclear antibodies (ANA), rheumatoid factor (RF), and/or erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR)
  • A family history of psoriasis or arthritis, coupled with your joint pain

How Can A Rheumatologist Help You?

A rheumatologist, like any other doctor in other fields, starts by gathering your medical and family histories, followed by performing a physical examination and running tests to reach a proper diagnosis.

What is a Rheumatologist


The best rheumatologists commonly run antibody tests on their patients if they suspect any autoimmune disorders. For the assessment of musculoskeletal impairments, they may request:

  • X-Rays
  • Ultrasounds
  • CT scans
  • MRI scans


Followed by the results from these tests, a rheumatologist comes up with a suitable treatment plan, which may include:

  • Medication
  • Steroid, booster, or antacid injections
  • Anti-inflammatory injections into joints or tendons
  • Surgical procedures conducted by an orthopedist
  • Artificial knee implants or implants in other areas of the body
  • A referral to a physical therapist
  • Lifestyle changes to accommodate a healthy diet, exercise, and stress management

In addition to a treatment plan, a rheumatologist is also likely to talk you through coping mechanisms for leading a normal life with rheumatoid arthritis and keeping the condition from getting worse. They help you improve your quality of life, while reducing the risks of a disability and loss of function, hence preventing the progression of the disease.

Further Prevention

Amendments in the lifestyle play an important role in preventing the onset of muscular or joint discomfort. A rheumatologist may advise one or more of the following:

  • Proper and routinely exercise
  • Timely medication
  • Insulation of the affected joints or muscles, especially for those living in weather with an extreme cold throughout the year
  • A healthy diet plan. Your rheumatologist may refer you to a nutritionist who is better equipped to figure out which parts of your diet are alleviating your rheumatic condition
  • An adequate supply of anti-inflammatory, such as turmeric, holds the power to maintain the right muscle elasticity and reduce or completely avoid joint or muscular pain during this condition
  • Make use of personal health care items such as cool or warm pads and herbal oil massages, as suggested by your doctor.

See Also: A Day In The Life Of A Dermatology Physician Assistant


Now that you have a clear idea of who a rheumatologist is and what they do, it is imperative to put yourself first and get checked as soon as possible. Do not put off your visit to the best rheumatologist just because your pain is tolerable since the degree of pain does not necessarily predict the presence of rheumatoid arthritis or any other underlying condition. Even a slight pain coupled with joint swelling needs to be urgently evaluated.

You may also read more about the common challenges faced by general physicians, including rheumatologists, during the time of COVID in 2021 in the blog section of Precision Hub.

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