Rheumatologist vs Orthopaedist: What Is the Difference?

January 10, 2022 10:40 am Published by

Discover the differences between a rheumatologist and orthopaedist to get the best treatment.

We know when you’re experiencing arthritis, joint or muscle pain you want relief fast. That is why Magnolia Regional Health Center offers a multidisciplinary approach to orthopaedic health. Orthopaedists and rheumatologists treat similar orthopaedic issues. Understanding the key differences between a rheumatologist and an orthopaedist will ensure you receive the most effective treatment from our experts.

What Is an Orthopaedist?

An orthopaedist, typically an orthopaedic surgeon, provides specialized treatment for the musculoskeletal system. The musculoskeletal system includes bones, joints, ligaments, nerves and tendons.

Orthopaedists diagnose and treat injuries that worsen over time, such as arthritis or osteoporosis. They also help prevent muscle or joint injuries caused by sports or physical activity.

It’s a common misconception that orthopaedic treatment relies on surgical interventions. Many orthopaedic treatment options focus on symptom relief and prevention, and do not involve surgery at all.

See an Orthopaedist for…

Some of the conditions an orthopaedist treats include:

  • Arthritis
  • Herniated disc
  • Hip or knee pain that continues to progress
  • Joint pain
  • Osteoporosis
  • Overuse injuries of the musculoskeletal system
  • Sciatica or other nerve pain
  • Scoliosis
  • Sports injuries
  • Whiplash

What Is a Rheumatologist?

A rheumatologist is an internal medicine specialist with specialized training in rheumatic diseases. Rheumatic diseases are inflammatory or autoimmune conditions where the immune system attacks the body’s healthy tissue. Rheumatologists are trained to diagnose conditions with biologic causes rather than injuries.

Rheumatic diseases affect similar areas of the body treated by orthopaedists, including joints, muscles, bones and tendons. While rheumatologists do treat some forms of arthritis, arthritis is not considered a rheumatic disease because it is degenerative and not caused by inflammation.

See a Rheumatologist for…

Some of the conditions a rheumatologist may treat include:

  • Fibromyalgia
  • Gout
  • Joint pain with back pain
  • Joint pain without injury
  • Lupus
  • Multiple joint pain
  • Psoriatic arthritis
  • Unknown illness or injury

So Who Should I See?

Speak to a primary care provider to discuss symptoms you’re experiencing. They will help determine whether a rheumatologist or orthopaedist is a better option and provide any necessary referral.

A quick way to differentiate between these doctors is to remember the following:

  • Rheumatologists treat musculoskeletal pain caused by biologics, such as immune system dysfunction or related diseases.
  • Orthopaedists treat musculoskeletal conditions related to overuse, injury or progressive conditions, such as osteoporosis or most forms of arthritis unrelated to the body’s biology or immune system.

Get the Best Care at MRHC

MRHC has multidisciplinary orthopaedic and rheumatology teams to provide custom care for each patient. They apply innovative and leading-edge treatment techniques to ensure each patient receives comprehensive care tailored to their specific healthcare needs.

Learn more about orthopaedic and rheumatology care at MRHC.

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This post was written by Magnolia Regional Health Center

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