What does a Rheumatologist do?

Rheumatology Check Ups Sydney

Many people have not heard of the term ‘Rheumatologist’. Lets face it, it doesn’t come up in common language at school, or at the pub!

It doesn’t even sound like a word that we can relate to. I once remember telling someone in a shop that I was a rheumatologist and she replied excitedly: ‘thats amazing!…. so…. you rearrange space?!’ ….at first I was quite excited that somebody knew what I did… it took me a little while to understand that she meant ‘Room-atologist’ as in interior design!

No, we don’t deal with rooms, just bodies 🙂 and people.

‘Rheumatologist’ comes from the Greek ‘Rheuma’ meaning ’that which flows like a river’. Rheumatology is the specialty that deals with conditions affecting the connective tissue of the body and the musculoskeletal system, including joints. All of these things are vital for our movement, even if there is no river in the body!

Rheumatologists like myself treat and investigate many conditions.

We investigate and treat causes of pain. This is important when pain is ongoing to get a good understanding as to what is causing the pain. This can also inform and guide treatment in the future.

Rheumatologists treat and investigate the following conditions:

  • Pain – such as back pain, shoulder pain, knee pain, joint pains, muscle pains. We focus on the musculoskeletal system as a cause for pain, but are skilled in differentiating different causes of pain. For example, some muscle pains feel like nerve pains, and vice versa and it is important to know which is which, as the treatment and outcome can be quite different.
  • Arthritis
  • Autoimmune connective tissue diseases such as Lupus
  • Myositis
  • Myalgias (muscle pains)
  • Gout and Pseudogout
  • Polymyalgia Rheumatica
  • Scleroderma
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Psoriatic Arthritis
  • Seronegative Arthritis
  • Ankylosing Spondylitis
  • Reactive Arthritis
  • Vasculitis

What skills do Rheumatologists have?

Rheumatology Sydney

Rheumatologists are skilled diagnosticians. They consider the body and the person as whole, whereas a lot of medical specialties tend to focus on only one aspect of the body, such as the heart or the nerves.

A lot of Rheumatological issues are complex diagnostic ones, where people are unwell, without an obvious cause: it can be important to seek a rheumatological opinion to see if there is an autoimmune cause for the unwellness, particularly when antibodies are found in the blood.

Rheumatologists are trained in seeing the issue as whole, as autoimmune and connective tissue disorders can affect the whole body, and not just one part. It is important to see how all things are connected. Did you know that your emotions are connected to your nervous system and your immune system, influencing both? Even our emotional health affects the physical body.

Rheumatologists are trained to be meticulous and investigate very thoroughly. This gives you a good foundation for understanding your health care from the medical perspective. This is very empowering for you to have meticulous experts giving you advice from their lengthy experience.

It can be good to see a Rheumatologist if there is ongoing joint pain for which surgery is recommended. There are sometimes non operative things that can be done to support the body prior to surgery and surgery whilst excellent is not a cure for everything. Seeing a good rheumatologist can give you the confidence and assurity to know that everything that can be done has been done, and or conversely, give you tips on what more can be done if at all possible to delay, or prevent surgery.

Rheumatologists are also trained in joint and tendon injections which can be a very helpful support for painful and inflamed areas.

Some Rheumatologists are able to inject trigger points to assist with regional myofascial pain.

Your Rheumatologist is a highly skilled and highly trained specialist there to support and guide you to navigate and understand your health.


Dr Maxine Szramka is a general Rheumatologist, seeing all Rheumatological conditions and has a particular interest in Ankylosing Spondylitis, Gout and Arthritis. She offers services in Nowra, Miranda and Kogorah.