Rheumatology is a branch of internal medicine devoted to diagnosing and treating musculoskeletal pain in the joints, muscles, and bones. Rheumatism can include a number of arthritic conditions commonly treated by orthopedic surgeon Dr. Harwin, including: osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and gout, as well as non-orthopedic conditions, such as osteoporosis. Additionally, rheumatism includes a number of pathologies affecting millions of Americans, such as lower back pain, tennis elbow, and golf elbow.
Rheumatologists and orthopedic doctors treating these conditions work to minimize pain and discomfort in the joints. Treatment focuses on improving quality of life and getting patients back to the activities they enjoy. While non-operative solutions, such as physical therapy, steroid injections into the joint, and lifestyle modification, can be effective in treating painful musculoskeletal conditions, surgery is sometimes necessary to alleviate rheumatic symptoms. Prior to beginning a treatment for a condition such as osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis, it is best to speak with an orthopedic doctor or rheumatologist to ensure the best treatment path possible. When a rheumatologist feels that treatment will no longer alleviate the pain and disability, a referral is made to Dr. Harwin.
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of joint disease, and often leads to disability, pain, and discomfort performing everyday tasks. OA is a degenerative disease, with onset typically seen in patients over the age of 40. As patients get older, everyday wear-and-tear takes a toll on joints, and the covering of the bone that prevents friction from deteriorating the bones wears away, causing pain, inflammation, and discomfort during routine activities, such as walking, standing, running, getting up from a chair, climbing the stairs, and even sleeping.
Osteoarthritis symptoms include, but are not limited to:
Rheumatoid arthritis is the result of an autoimmune disease that causes painful inflammation in the joints. RA tends to affect patients symmetrically. This means that joints on both sides of the body, such as the hands, feet, ankles, and knees are affected equally. Rheumatoid arthritis tends to run in families and can even start in childhood, called Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis (JRA).
Because there is no cure for RA, treatment is typically long-term. Common treatment methods include non-operative means, such as physical therapy, exercise, and lifestyle modification. Other treatment methods include medications such as steroids (prednisone), NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) and DMARDs (disease modifying antirheumatic drugs). Surgery is an option depending on the course and severity of the illness. As always, it is best to speak with an orthopedic doctor or rheumatologist before beginning any treatment plans.
Dr. Harwin is a board-certified orthopedic surgeon renowned for his experience, skill, and accomplishments in orthopedics and musculoskeletal treatment. He has been named a "New York Super Doctor," a "Best Doctor" and "Top Doctor in the New York Metro Area" by Castle Connolly Medical, Ltd., and a "Best Doctor in America" by the Best Doctors® organization, founded by professors affiliated with the Harvard Medical School.
For more information about treating your musculoskeletal pain, visit the offices of The Center for Reconstructive Joint Surgery on the Upper East Side, or the satellite office in The Bronx.
By Dr. Steven Harwin