What is a rheumatologist?

A rheumatologist is a specialist physician who has expertise in diagnosing and treating diseases of the joints, muscles and bones.

If you suffer from severe and persistent joint pain in your back, neck, muscles or have swollen and stiff joints, your general practitioner (GP) may refer you to a rheumatologist.

The rheumatic diseases that a rheumatologist treat include:

  • Osteoarthritis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Gout
  • Spinal disease
  • Muscles, ligaments & tendon injuries
  • Osteoporosis
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Polymyalgia rheumatica
  • Systemic lupus erythematosus
  • Scleroderma
  • Inflammatory myositis
  • Vasculitis
  • Paget’s disease
What is a rheumatologist


  • Arthritis and musculoskeletal conditions are common long-term diseases in Australia. These affect the bones, muscles and joints.
  • Common Musculoskeletal Conditions are osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis and back problems.
  • Almost 1/3 of people with arthritis disease report some core activity restrictions.
  • Arthritis is the 8th most frequently managed problem by GPs in Australia.
  • It was managed at the rate of 3.6 PER 100 encounters in 2007/08.
  • Back pain/problems are very common in Australia, affecting about 1.7 million (8%) people.

1. AIHW 2010. A snapshot of arthritis in Australia 2010. Arthritis series no. 13. Cat. no. PHE 126. Canberra: AIHW.


What will happen when I see a rheumatologist?

The Diagnosis

Rheumatologists are specially trained to do the detective work necessary to discover the cause of your symptoms. You will be asked to provide a history of the problem and will undergo a physical examination. Additional investigations such as blood tests, X-rays and scans may also be needed.

Information and advice

Once a diagnosis is made, the nature and course of your illness will be explained to you. This is important so that you can actively play a part in managing and taking control of your condition.


With an accurate diagnosis and a shared understanding of your illness, we can work together to design an optimum treatment program aimed at managing pain, reducing inflammation and ensuring your quality of life.

Ongoing management

Depending on the nature and severity of your illness, you may need to see your rheumatologist regularly for ongoing management.

So how will my condition be treated?

There are a number of treatment options available to you.

  • Physiotherapy
  • Occupational therapy
  • Social work
  • Psychological counselling
  • Nutritionists
  • General support care
  • Drug treatment
  • Surgery

We will work closely with your GP and other skilled professionals to select the best treatment combination for you.

Australian Rheumatology Association
Macquarie University Hospital
The Royal Australiasian College of Physicians
Arthritis & Osteoporosis