Different people can be part of your allied health team. This group of health professionals is large and not entirely covered by the list below. Having arthritis can be a stressful experience; it can change the way you do things every day, and it can take time to get your head around who and what needs to be in place to support you. Identifying who might be in your allied health team is an important part of the journey to living well with arthritis.
How to see an allied health professional
You do not always need a referral from your GP to get help from health professionals such as physiotherapists, podiatrists, chiropractors, or optometrists. Access to allied health professionals may also be possible through some GP practices – check with your GP or practice nurse in the first instance. Access to allied health professionals through the public system will vary across New Zealand depending on geographical region.
A Dietitian is a registered health practitioner who evaluates scientific evidence about food and nutrition and translates it into practical strategies. New Zealand dietitians are usually consulted when a patient has a health condition that is directly affected by diet – such as kidney disease, heart disease or diabetes. Dietitians work in partnership with individuals, whanau, communities and populations to support optimal health and well-being. For more information, visit Dietitians NZ
A Hand Therapist is a registered physiotherapist or occupational therapist with additional qualifications to specialise in the treatment of conditions from the elbow to the hand. The hand, wrist, and arm are incredibly complex so there is a lot to know. Hand therapists can diagnose and treat a range of conditions including arthritis and pain and nerve damage. Treatments can involve the use of heat, ice or electrotherapy, splints for muscle, tendon, and ligament damage, and specifically targeted exercises to improve movement and strength. They often work in conjunction with other practitioners, such as hand surgeons. Find more information at Hand Therapy New Zealand
A Nutritionist focuses on disease prevention and health and well-being promotion in the general population. In New Zealand, the term is not protected so it is important to seek the advice of a Registered or Associate Registered Nutritionist. A Registered Nutritionist is a trusted authority on nutrition who will provide nutrition advice to the public informed by scientific evidence as well as individual dietary advice by those working in practice. For more information, visit Nutrition Society of New Zealand
An Occupational Therapist helps you adapt daily activities by using tools, aids, modifications, and strategies. They may work for NASC providing assessments and recommendations for home equipment, vehicle modifications, household management and personal care, and home modifications, or they may work privately or in a hospital. For more information, visit Occupational Therapy New Zealand | Whakaora Ngangahau Aotearoa. For more information on needs assessments, visit Needs assessment services | Whaikaha – Ministry of Disabled People.
An Orthotist fabricates or provides devices that support existing body parts (e.g. Ankle, Foot Orthotics (AFOs), Knee Ankle, Foot Orthotics (KAFOs), Foot Orthotics, Footwear modification, Upper limb bracing). For more information visit NZOPA – Promoting Orthotics and Prosthetics in New Zealand.
A Pain specialist is a medical specialist who has completed additional qualifications to assess and manage patients for whom pain is the primary presenting problem. They come from a range of disciplines and use a combination of behavioural, psychological, and biomedical approaches to help reduce pain, restore function, and improve quality of life.
A Podiatrist specialises in conditions affecting the feet, such as arthritis. They can help with information around suitable footwear, and provide nail care and custom orthotic shoe inserts to support your feet. For more information visit Podiatrists Board.
A Physiotherapist advises on exercises, posture and ways to relieve pain. They may also use treatments such as massage, manipulation and acupuncture, and provide mobility aids. Their aim is to keep your joints and muscles flexible and strong to support body alignment and joint health. Getting the right exercises to support your joints and them doing them consistently at home is a crucial part of your pain management and will increase your quality of life with arthritis. For more information visit Physiotherapy New Zealand.
A Psychologist helps you with tools to cope with the challenges life brings, such as having a long-term health condition. They support you to cope with feelings of depression, anxiety, and stress and the impact this has on relationships, work, sleep, and self-confidence. All psychologists are trained to see people with various types of conditions. They are skilled in examining how biological, social, and psychological factors influence health and illness. For more information, visit New Zealand Psychological Society.
Social workers provide help and support if you are under stress and have social issues such as housing, employment, financial hardship, or other personal issues. They will listen to you, help you make decisions, and link you with support services, accommodation, and benefits. For more information, visit Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Social Workers.