Decision Assist

Joint specialist


The purpose of this tool is to help you decide whether or not to see a joint specialist. When making a decision like this, you must balance:

This tool is not a substitute for professional medical care and advice. Work with your doctor to help you make this decision. A second opinion from another doctor or specialist may be valuable. There is usually no exact “right” or “wrong” answer.

Your physician may make certain recommendations to you. However, the final decision about whether to see a joint specialist rests with you.

What does this specialist do?

Injuries to joints -- such as the knee, hip, elbow, and shoulder -- often need treatment from a joint specialist.

Shoulder joint

A joint specialist can evaluate your injury with the help of MRI, CT scans, and x-ray. Joint specialists are also surgeons who can perform exploratory surgery to look for problem areas inside of joints. They also can perform major operations such as joint replacements.

Hip joint replacement - series
Click the icon to see an illustrated series detailing hip joint replacement.
Knee joint replacement - series
Click the icon to see an illustrated series detailing knee joint replacement.

Joint specialists can prescribe a treatment plan that includes physical therapy and pain-relieving medication. The goal of these health care providers is to help people with joint problems improve their range and motion and joint function to as close to normal as possible.

Key points

How much time this decision tool will take

What this tool will provide

Review Date: 9/12/2010
Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington, School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

  • Klippel JJ, Ed. Initial evaluation of the adult patient with acute musculoskeletal symptoms and recommendations for the medical management of osteoarthritis of the hip and knee. Arthritis Foundation. Primer on the Rheumatic Diseases, 12th edition. 2001.
  • Health Technology Assessment. 2004;8(50):1-106;iii-iv.
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