When older people have a hard time walking across the room, they can’t help but wonder why their primary care provider says they should see a sports medicine specialist for treatment.

It sounds odd. Why would a sports medicine doctor be the right fit for a person that has a hard time getting up from his or her chair?

Actually, there’s a good reason.

Sports medicine physicians specialize in the body mechanics needed for pain-free movement. These movement specialists understand the intricate relationship between your body’s ligaments, tendons, and muscles, and your ability to move your arms and legs.

How does arthritis limit movement?

Arthritis refers to an inflammatory condition that occurs in the joints. The condition can be caused by a degenerative disease of the joint tissue; the body’s response to a traumatic injury, such as a broken bone, or an autoimmune response, which occurs when the body attacks its own healthy cells. There are more than 100 types of arthritis.

Unfortunately, there is no cure. But there are things you can do to reduce pain and stiffness.

Make an appointment with your healthcare provider.

If your pain keeps you from enjoying life, it’s time to see your primary care provider. He or she may refer you to a sports medicine specialist who can offer conservative treatments to help relieve your pain and restore your movement.

Sports medicine physicians know how to reduce the effects of your current condition – and how to prevent future injuries. This level of expertise makes them the perfect healthcare providers to treat mild-to-moderate arthritis pain.

Sports medicine specialists can help you regain movement while you reduce the risk of further joint damage.

Since sports medicine specialists are not surgeons, they depend on non-operative treatments and non-invasive pain management techniques to help people feel better.

A board-certified fellowship-trained sports medicine specialist has completed 12 to 13 years of medical school, residency, and specialty training. They are highly qualified to work with your muscles and joints. Some treatments a sports medicine specialist may prescribe, include:

  • Rest
  • Heat therapy
  • Avoidance of foods that cause inflammation
  • Over-the-counter medications or supplements
  • Physical or occupational therapy
  • Cortisone Injections
  • Transcutaneous electrical stimulation

A sports medicine specialist may also ask you to help yourself feel better by making easy lifestyle changes. They may ask you to:

  • Lose weight
  • Walk
  • Exercise using low-impact strengthening routines like Tai Chi
  • Consider water exercises or water therapy
  • Avoid eating foods that cause inflammation
  • Try over-the-counter medications such as glucosamine and chondroitin

But not all types of arthritis respond to orthopedic treatment. If you are diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, your sports medicine specialist may refer you to a rheumatologist. These specialists are internists who treat autoimmune and other diseases that affect the musculoskeletal system. You may need to see a rheumatologist if you:

  • Have pain in several joints
  • Experience joint stiffness with symptoms of illness, such as fever or rash
  • Have psoriasis
  • Were bitten by a tick before your joint pain started
  • Have muscular pain
  • Experience headaches or muscle aches that began after you turned age 50
  • Have untreatable back pain

Even though there is not a cure for arthritis, there are many treatments that can help reduce pain, increase your movement, and keep you moving for the rest of your life.