There are many services and programs
across BC for arthritis patients, their
families and healthcare professionals
to support arthritis patients with the
practical physical and emotional
aspects of living with arthritis.

Your Arthritis Care Team

Managing arthritis is a team effort. There are many different health care providers in British Columbia who can help, depending on your type of arthritis. The healthcare professionals on your team may change over time and will depend on the problems you have and the services available where you live.

A wide variety of health care providers can help you manage and treat the physical and psychological impacts of arthritis depending on your specific arthritis and situation. Some of the team members deal directly with you to treat your arthritis. Others support you with the impact of arthritis on you, your family and your friends, while some members do not work directly with you but are still vital to your treatment.

Effective arthritis care involves you, your family doctor, arthritis specialists and other healthcare professionals. Although you will see different healthcare professionals, your family doctor remains your primary health care provider and continues to play a major role in your ongoing care. Your family doctor will receive regular reports regarding your arthritis and care from your treatment team.

Rheumatologists are medical doctors who have many years of additional training, added to their regular medical schooling, equipping them to become specialists at diagnosing and treating arthritis, particularly forms of inflammatory arthritis such as rheumatoid arthritis. People living with inflammatory arthritis will often comment that their rheumatologist is the most important healthcare professional in their lives, and that this doctor-patient relationship is critically important to them.

Please click on the healthcare professional title to view its definition.

Osteoarthritis

Caused by a breakdown of cartilage in joints causing bones to rub together resulting in pain, stiffness and eventual loss of use. There are some forms of osteoarthritis that appear to be genetically driven, and others that are a result of injury, overuse or advanced age.

Your osteoarthritis care team provides education, counselling, treatments and community resources to help you develop skills to take control and live well with your disease.

Inflammatory Arthritis

Is a general term used to describe autoimmune forms of the disease. In inflammatory arthritis, the body’s own immune system attacks healthy joints and tissues, causing inflammation and joint damage. Rheumatoid arthritis is the most common form of inflammatory arthritis. Other forms include ankylosing spondylitis, psoriatic arthritis, lupus and many others.

Your IA care team provides education, counselling, treatments and community resources to help you develop skills to take greater control over and live a better life with the disease.

  • Prepares and dispenses medications prescribed by physicians
  • Provides information about dosage, interactions, and side effects of prescription and over-the-counter medications, and give advice on other, non-medication, therapies
  • Prepares and dispenses medications prescribed by physicians
  • Provides information about dosage, interactions, and side effects of prescription and over-the-counter medications, and give advice on other, non-medication, therapies
  • In severe or complicated cases, works with you and your family doctor to medically manage your OA
  • Assesses your day-to-day physical function, strength, mobility, balance and level of fitness
  • Diagnoses and treat physical symptoms related to arthritis
  • Teaches you ways to reduce your pain
  • Provides specific exercises, guidance and treatments (manual therapy, heat, cold, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation -TENS-, ultrasound) for your OA
  • Works with you to restore, maximize and maintain movement, flexibility and physical independence

Specialists who can help you cope mentally and emotionally with your problems. It’s not unusual for people with OA to feel depressed, anxious or a bit helpless.

Nutritionist experts who can offer advice on how to eat in ways that will help you improve your health and maintain a healthy weight.

  • Serves as your primary doctor and plays the leading role in your ongoing care
  • Receives regular reports regarding your OA and care from your other core team members
Focuses on the surgical management of joint, bone and muscle issues and injuries, including joint replacements.

Physiatrist (rehabilitation specialist)

Medical doctors who use non-surgical ways to help patients enjoy restored joint function and an improved ability to move.

Practitioners who reduce pain and improve physical functioning by inserting fine needles into specific points on the body.

  • Assesses your ability to carry out every day tasks
  • Works with you to find solutions to improve your quality of life and independence
  • Suggests equipment or splints/orthotics to help with daily activities
  • Suggests changes to home or work sites to make tasks easier
Serves as your primary doctor and continues to play a central role in your ongoing care.
  • Assesses your day-to-day physical function, strength, mobility, balance and level of fitness
  • Diagnoses and treat physical symptoms related to arthritis
  • Teaches you ways to reduce your pain
  • Provides specific exercises, guidance and treatments (manual therapy, heat, cold, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation -TENS-, ultrasound) for your condition
  • Works with you to restore, maximize and maintain movement, flexibility and physical independence

Physiatrist (rehabilitation specialist)

Medical doctors who use non-surgical ways to help patients enjoy restored joint function and an improved ability to move.

Practitioners who reduce pain and improve physical functioning by inserting fine needles into specific points on the body.

  • Helps you explore your vocational potential
  • Removes barriers to employment
  • Diagnoses the type of IA you have
  • Works with you and the other members of your care team to medically manage your IA
  • Provides supportive counseling and education on your IA, including medication treatment options, and other health concerns
  • Teaches you skills such as self-injection, adjusting medications, dealing with treatment side, talking with your doctor, and wellness strategies to live a healthy lifestyle.
  • Gives injection medications or biologics by IV when ordered by your rheumatologist
  • Assesses your ability to carry out every day tasks
  • Works with you to find solutions to improve your quality of life and independence
  • Suggests equipment or splints/orthotics to help with daily activities
  • Suggests changes to home or work sites to make tasks easier
  • Connects you and family members to community resources
  • Helps you deal with the practical concerns in life, including housing, financial and family worries
  • Helps you to adjust to emotional and social changes, including depression, stress, social isolation and loss of purpose in life

Nutritionist experts who can offer advice on how to eat in ways that will help you improve your health and maintain a healthy weight.

Specialists who can help you cope mentally and emotionally with your problems. It’s not unusual for people with OA to feel depressed, anxious or a bit helpless.

 

You and your health care team

You are the most important member of your team. Your role should be to:

  • Learn about your arthritis and the many ways it can be managed
  • Work with your team to find ways of managing your arthritis that work best for you
  • Learn about the services that can help
  • Be as open as possible with your health concerns and goals
  • You know your body best and what does – or does not -feel right for you. Share this information with your health care team

Prevention and Treatment

These are some of the services and service providers you might interact with to implement prevention and treatment strategies.

Publicly-funded arthritis treatment programs

The following are publicly-funded arthritis treatment programs that offer clinics and classes free of charge to help people with osteoarthritis and inflammatory arthritis manage their disease. All of these programs require a physician referral, so talk to your doctor if you would like to be referred:

Mary Pack Arthritis Program (Vancouver, Victoria, Penticton, Cranbrook)
OASIS
• Richmond Arthritis Services
• Lions Gate Hospital
• Holy Family Hospital
• Burnaby Hospital
• Abbotsford Hospital
• Surrey Memorial Hospital

Additional programs located in your community may be found on the Health Link BC website: www.Healthlinkbc.ca

Arthritis Consumer Experts

Arthritis Consumer Experts (ACE) provides free, science-based information and education programs to people with arthritis. ACE serves people living with all forms of arthritis by helping them take control of their disease and improve their quality of life through education and empowerment

http://www.jointhealth.org

College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia provides useful content for the public, including information on how to file a complaint with the College. It provides direct access to the College’s online physician directory, which extracts contact information, office locations and other relevant details about a physician directly from the public register in real time.

https://www.cpsbc.ca/for-public

HealthLink BC

HealthLink BC provides access to non-emergency health information and advice in British Columbia and is available by telephone, a website, a mobile app, and a collection of print resources, including the BC HealthGuide Handbook. HealthLink BC brings together some of British Columbia’s most trusted and recognized health information services including: the BC HealthGuide, BC HealthFiles, BC NurseLine, Pharmacist Services, Dial-a-Dietitian, and the Physical Activity Line (PAL).

https://www.healthlinkbc.ca

Physiotherapy Association of British Columbia

The Physiotherapy Association of British Columbia “Find a Physio” tool allows the public to search for physiotherapists who are registered with the Association by name, location, clinic type, area of practice or keywords.

http://bcphysio.org

Self Management BC Program

The Self Management BC program offers a menu of self-management programs available throughout BC. Programs are for adults and there is no cost to attend.

http://www.selfmanagementbc.ca

The Arthritis Society

The Arthritis Society (TAS) offers online self-learning resources and workshops on various topics related to arthritis. TAS also operates an Arthritis Answers Line, offering toll-free telephone information, support, and assistance.

http://arthritis.ca

Events Calendar

The following calendar provides you a listing of information, education, and support events and programs across all regions of BC.

Event Legend

  1. Event – special events or social gatherings
  2. Education– public forums and in-person workshops
  3. Information – webinars and online publications

Community Partners

There are numerous organizations in BC who support people living with arthritis.

Arthritis Consumer Experts

Arthritis Consumer Experts (ACE) is a national organization that provides free, science-based information and education programs in both official languages to people with arthritis. ACE serves people living with all forms of arthritis by helping them take control of their disease and improve their quality of life through education and empowerment. Founded and led by people with arthritis, ACE also actively advocates on arthritis health and policy issues, through ACE’s JointHealth™ family of programs and the Arthritis Broadcast Network, directly to consumers/patients, healthcare professionals, media and government. ACE is guided by a strict set of guiding principles, set out by an advisory board comprised of leading scientists, medical professionals and informed arthritis consumers.

feedback@jointhealth.org

Arthritis Research Canada

The Arthritis Patient Advisory Board of Arthritis Research Canada (ARC) is comprised of volunteer advocates with arthritis who bring personal experience and arthritis knowledge to research decision making at ARC. Their goal is to ensure the patient perspective is represented on research matters related to prevention, treatment and self-management of arthritis. Individually and collectively, they communicate research information and findings to arthritis patients, professional organizations and the general public.

http://www.arthritisresearch.ca/about-us

BC Lupus Society

Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease that attacks any organ of the body in unpredictable ways. Early diagnosis is difficult but essential in preventing organ failure. Please help the BC Lupus Society by supporting our programs through your generous donation.

Formed in 1977, the BC Lupus Society is the oldest Lupus not-for-profit organization in Canada. We are dedicated to conquering one of the most unpredictable and devastating diseases, while giving caring support to those who suffer from its brutal impact. Children, women and men can all get lupus and there is no cure.

http://www.bclupus.org

Cassie + Friends

Cassie + Friends is the only charity in Canada dedicated 100% to the pediatric rheumatic disease community. Since 2007, it has raised over $1.5 million dollars to transform the lives of kids and families affected by Juvenile Arthritis and other rheumatic diseases. Working with patients, caregivers, healthcare professionals, researchers and other friends, Cassie + Friends provides life-changing support, education, community and research to help kids and families face the ups and downs of life with a chronic condition.

http://cassieandfriends.ca

Pain BC

Pain BC is a collaborative non-profit organization made up of people in pain, health care providers, and leaders from universities, government, business and the non-profit sector. It aims to improve the lives of people in pain through education, empowerment and innovation.

https://www.painbc.ca

Physiotherapy Association of British Columbia

The Physiotherapy Association of British Columbia “Find a Physio” tool allows the public to search for physiotherapists who are registered with the Association by name, location, clinic type, area of practice or keywords.

http://bcphysio.org

Self Management BC Program

The Self Management BC program offers a menu of self-management programs available throughout BC. Programs are for adults and there is no cost to attend.

http://www.selfmanagementbc.ca

The Arthritis Society

The Arthritis Society (TAS) is Canada’s principle health charity, which empowers the more than 4.6 million Canadian with arthritis to live their lives to the fullest by combating the daily limitations of arthritis. Over the last 65 years, The Society has invested more than $185 million towards arthritis research to develop better treatments and ultimately find a cure. The Arthritis Society works with various arthritis support groups and partners to deliver education and provide support to those affected by arthritis.

http://arthritis.ca/manage-arthritis/living-well-with-arthritis/living-well-in-your-province/living-well-in-british-columbia-yukon

FAQ

As a patient, care giver or healthcare professional, you may have questions about how to find help for people living with arthritis in BC. This FAQ section contains questions frequently asked by BC arthritis patients.

1   How do you recognize symptoms of arthritis?

There are more than 100 different types of arthritis and symptoms vary widely between each type. For example, primary symptoms range from pain, stiffness and swelling in joints for rheumatoid arthritis, to dryness of the eyes and mouth for Sjögren’s Syndrome, to spiking fevers and a faint, salmon coloured rash over certain areas of the body for adult-onset Stills disease.

For many types of arthritis, however, there are common signs (things your doctor can see, like a swollen joint) and symptoms (things patients feel, like fatigue, pain, etc.) that point the way towards a specific arthritis diagnosis. While these symptoms may differ among types of arthritis, there are several which are commonly associated with inflammatory arthritis and osteoarthritis. For a full list of disease-specific signs and symptoms, see disease spotlights here:

Arthritis Consumer Experts
http://jointhealth.org/aboutarthritis-diseasespotlights.cfm?locale=en-CA

The BC Lupus Society
http://www.bclupus.org

Canadian Spondylitis Association
http://www.spondylitis.ca

The Arthritis Society
http://arthritis.ca/understand-arthritis/types-of-arthritis

2   What do you do if you recognize symptoms of arthritis?

If you are experiencing symptoms such as joint stiffness and pain or fatigue, it is important to speak with your doctor about them. Early detection, diagnosis and treatment are vitally important when dealing with almost every type of arthritis. A correct diagnosis is the first step a person with arthritis can make towards taking control of their disease and taking action in building a treatment plan. Click here to access a system assessor:

ArthritisID

Arthritis Symptom Checker

3   How do you get a referral to an arthritis specialist?

If your family doctor suspects you have osteoarthritis, in all but serious cases, your osteoarthritis will be managed by your family doctor. The Osteoarthritis (OA) Tool  will be a helpful resource. The OA Tool has been developed for primary care providers who are managing patients with new or recurrent joint pain consistent with OA in the hip, knee or hand.

A rheumatologist is a doctor who specializes in treating arthritis. In British Columbia, a referral from a family doctor is required to see a rheumatologist.

Rheumatologists specialize in the management of inflammatory types of arthritis such as rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis and psoriatic arthritis. These specialists have at least five years of additional training, on top of their regular medical schooling.

It can be challenging to get a referral from a family doctor to a rheumatologist. This may be because there are so many forms of arthritis, and general practitioners may not be familiar with many of the symptoms of the more than 100 different types of arthritis.

There are some things you can do to make it easier to get a referral to a rheumatologist. First, tell your doctor if you have the hallmark symptoms of inflammatory arthritis. These are:

  • Ongoing joint pain and swelling
  • Ongoing morning stiffness, lasting more than an hour after rising
  • Inability to continue daily work and living activities.

Also, tell your doctor about any history of inflammatory arthritis in your family, as some forms of the disease may have a genetic component.

Once your family doctor suspects inflammatory arthritis, he or she will need to write you a referral letter. This letter should include the following:

  • The suspected diagnosis of inflammatory arthritis.
  • A brief history and clinical findings. These may include morning stiffness, weight changes, fever patterns, and number and types of joints affected.
  • Copies of all reports, including MRIs, x-rays, and letters from any other specialists consulted.

If your family doctor suspects you have osteoarthritis, in all but serious cases, your osteoarthritis will be managed by your family doctor. The Osteoarthritis (OA) Tool will be a helpful resource. The OA Tool has been developed for primary care providers who are managing patients with new or recurrent joint pain consistent with OA in the hip, knee or hand.

4   How important are diet and nutrition in managing my arthritis?

What you eat can help you manage your arthritis or make your pain worse. Certain foods have been shown to provide some inflammation relief, strengthen bones and boost the immune system. The most important role diet and nutrition plays is helping attain or maintain ideal body weight, achieve good heart health, and promote or manage diabetes and osteoporosis. As a potential member of your healthcare team, a registered dietician can help you design and follow an “arthritis friendly” diet. You can find information about dietitian services in BC here: https://www.healthlinkbc.ca/dietitian-services

5   What lifestyle changes should I consider to help manage my arthritis?

Once arthritis is diagnosed, finding the right medication is often key. Once the right treatment has been identified and started, many people living with arthritis will often regain enough of their health to make lifestyle changes to reduce the pain and disability associated with their disease.

In addition to diet and nutrition, exercising at this point in a treatment program is crucial, as it helps to prevent weight-gain and muscle loss. Even moderate physical activity can help to improve health outcomes. Light cardiovascular and weight-bearing exercise, as well as low-impact water-aerobics are examples of exercises to help you regain fitness and keep your muscles toned to support healthy joints. Even periods of high intensity exercise can be beneficial as long as joints are protected and rest periods are included.

Studies show that smoking is one of the strongest environmental risk factors for developing rheumatoid arthritis. For those diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, smoking decreases the effectiveness of drugs prescribed to treat the disease and can be a barrier to engaging in activities that may relieve symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, such as exercise.

6   Who provides arthritis programs and services in your community?

These are some of the services and service providers you might interact with to practice prevention and treatment strategies.

Publicly-funded arthritis treatment programs

The following are publicly-funded arthritis treatment programs that offer clinics and classes free of charge to help people with osteoarthritis and inflammatory arthritis manage their disease. All of these programs require a physician referral, so talk to your doctor if you would like to be referred:

Additional programs located in your community may be found on the Health Link BC website: www.Healthlinkbc.ca

Arthritis Consumer Experts

Arthritis Consumer Experts provides free, science-based information and education programs to people with arthritis. ACE serves people living with all forms of arthritis by helping them take control of their disease and improve their quality of life through education and empowerment.

Physiotherapy Association of British Columbia

The Physiotherapy Association of British Columbia “Find a Physio” tool allows the public to search for physiotherapists who are registered with the Association by name, location, clinic type, area of practice or keywords.

Self Management BC Program

The Self Management BC program offers a menu of self-management programs available throughout BC. Programs are for adults and there is no cost to attend.

The Arthritis Society

The Arthritis Society offers online self-learning resources and workshops on various topics related to arthritis. The Arthritis Society also operates an Arthritis Answers Line, offering toll-free telephone information, support, and assistance.

HealthLink BC

HealthLink BC provides access to non-emergency health information and advice in British Columbia. Information and advice is available by telephone, a website, a mobile app, and a collection of print resources, including the BC HealthGuide Handbook.

The Physical Activity Line (PAL) is now Physical Activity Services at HealthLink BC, where you can find physical activity information and tools.

HealthLink BC’s registered dietitians offer telephone, email and web-based based food and nutrition services to support the information, education and counselling needs of B.C. residents and health professionals.

QuitNow

QuitNow is the free, quit-smoking program of the Government of British Columbia, delivered by the BC Lung Association.

8   How can I donate to arthritis in BC?

Your donation is important to those affected by arthritis and to Canadian researchers who continue to look for a cure. Please go to these organizations to find out how you can support British Columbians living with arthritis:

Arthritis Research Canada

http://www.arthritisresearch.ca/donate

BC Lupus Society

https://www.canadahelps.org/services/wa/dnm/en/#/page/3848

Cassie + Friends

http://cassieandfriends.ca/support/make-a-donation/

The Arthritis Society

http://arthritis.ca/support-us