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More than one rheuma
This week, I was able to see my osteopath. Going to see my osteopath, to me, is like going to a day spa. I always look forward to it because I know I will walk out feeling great! I have a lot to thank my osteo for, namely that my diagnosis came about because of him. Getting an appointment to see him however, is not easy. He is forever booked out and cancellations are rare. Luckily for me, my Muay Thai boxing partner is a myotherapist. Between the both of them, my body is well cared for. They make up the crust of my rheumatoid arthritis care team.
For many rheumatoid arthritis warriors, their rheumatoid arthritis care team primarily consists of their primary care doctor and their rheumatologist ( rheumatoid arthritis doctor ).
Rheumatoid arthritis team approach
There is no right or wrong when it comes to your rheumatoid arthritis care team. It is all very individual depending on your circumstances. At the end of the day, it’s important for you to have health care providers that understand your needs and are willing to help you with management of your symptoms.
What I want to outline in this article are the different types of health care providers that you might employ to be a part of your health care team. Hopefully, you’ll learn about some other alternative pain management options you haven’t considered before.
Primary care physician (PCP)
For those of us in the Southern Hemisphere, our PCP is usually our GP or family doctor. I see my GP maybe once a month at most. My visits to him are usually to write up a script for my medication because my repeats are finished and I’m not due to see my rheumy for a while. That is pretty much the extent of our patient/doctor relationship in regard to my rheumatoid arthritis.
For those in the US however, you would probably see your PCP a lot more. In particular, you might see an Internist who would have received training and rheumatology.
Physical Therapist or Physiotherapy
Many of those living with RA, see a physical therapist. Physical therapists are great for those of us who have difficulty with mobility. Their treatment plan may involve massage, taping or giving you targeted exercises and stretches to improve your overall functionality.
Occupational therapists will have a more targeted approach to your rheumatoid arthritis care plan. O.Ts will help you with fine and gross motor tasks that RA has made more difficult for you. Tasks such as dressing, getting in and out of the car or even preparing meals. OTs are great at safety considerations for rheumatoid arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis self-care. They could suggest alternative ways to perform common tasks or recommend some assisted devices that could make certain jobs easier.
Chiros specialise in the musculoskeletal system and use manual manipulation to adjust your spine. I personally don’t see a chiropractor but I do believe that they go beyond just cracking your spine. Chiropractors, unlike osteopaths, are not medical doctors but are considered a safe and drug-free option for dealing with arthritis pain. The jury however, is out on whether or not chiropractic care is suitable for those with inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus and ankylosing spondylitis.
Osteopaths are the kind of specialists you only hear of through word of mouth. Who they are and what they do is not as widely known as it should be.
Osteos are allied health professionals who believe in treating the whole body as a unit. They use a wide rage of techniques to re-right the body. Osteos specialise in the musculoskeletal framework inclusive of muscles, joints and connective tissues.
When I visit my osteo, he examines every part of my body from head to toe. At the time, I might be feeling a lot of tension in my back and limping a little. So even though I might be seeing him primarily for a current back issue, that particular ailment could be stemming from my neck. Not only that, my back issues were causing me joint pain in my hip, hence the limping. It’s this interconnectedness of their treatment that makes osteos to me the gold standard of treatment. So for treatment, he would massage my back, shoulders and neck. Additionally, he would manipulate my hip, back and ankle joints. In the end, I walk out feeling whole again. It’s fantastic!
My very first myotherapist described myotherapists as glorified remedial masseurs. Over the years, I have learnt that they are so much more than that! I’m not sure if he was being deliberately self-deprecating when he called myotherapy ‘one up from remedial massage.’ Every time I go see my myo, her treatment is very similar to what my osteo does but without all the manipulation. There is massage, dry needling, acupuncture and cupping. She is always my backup when I can’t get in to see my osteo. I can usually get in to see her within days as opposed to weeks with the osteopath.
Nutritionist, dietitians and naturopaths
With no disrespect to nutritionists, dietitians and naturopaths, I have lumped them under the same banner. I recognise they are all different. As a whole, these health professionals all specialise in food science and using food, herbs and supplements to improve health and to heal.
I recently recruited the help of a sports nutritionist to help me achieve my fitness goals ahead of my muay thai fight. His job was to teach me to use nutrition as a means to get maximum output out of my martial arts training and to help me with recovery. As a side goal, I also wanted to lose a little weight and to be more consistent and controlled in my eating habits.
For those living with rheumatoid arthritis, diet plays a major role in our treatment. Foods can have a direct affect on our pain and inflammation levels. You can read more about diet and finding food triggers in this article. Nutritionists and dieticians are great to consult if you want a more holistic approach to your treatment.
Mental health professional
Mental health is of utmost importance when living with a chronic illness. As discussed in my most popular articles, mental health plays a pivotal role in our treatment. Living with daily pain will take it’s toll inevitably on a person and it’s important to address this. Rheumatoid arthritis can be a very lonely disease, particularly if you feel that your friends and family don’t understand you. The battle is not just the one fought against your own body. It’s a constant daily battle against guilt, feelings of helplessness and finding the motivation to just keep living. For this reason, mental health professionals are good to have as part of your rheumatoid arthritis care team.
A support group is also great for mental health. You can join our private Facebook support group here.
Multidisciplinary team for rheumatoid arthritis
Care settings for rheumatoid arthritis doesn’t have to be just you and your rheumatologist. As discussed in this article, there are many professionals in different fields that can be a part of your rheumatoid arthritis care team. By having a variety of different approaches, you will have a well rounded treatment plan to help you manage your symptoms day to day. You certainly don’t have to consult with them frequently. Reaching out to these different professionals will provide you with a wide range of resources that will be of benefit to you at some point.
What is your care plan for rheumatoid arthritis? I’d love to hear about your rheumatoid arthritis care team! Leave a comment below and leave your recommendation.