Questions and Answers about Arthritis Pain
How Do Doctors Measure Arthritis Pain?
Pain is a private, unique experience that cannot be seen. The
most common way to measure pain is for the doctor to ask you, the patient,
about your problems. For example, the doctor may ask you to describe the level
of pain you feel on a scale of 1 to 10. You may use words like aching, burning,
stinging, or throbbing. These words will give the doctor a clearer picture of
the pain you are experiencing.
Since doctors rely on your description of pain to help guide
treatment, you may want to keep a pain diary to record your pain sensations. On
a daily basis, you can describe the situations that cause or alter the
intensity of your pain, the sensations and severity of your pain, and your
reactions to the pain. For example: "On Monday night, sharp pains in my
knees produced by housework interfered with my sleep; on Tuesday morning,
because of the pain, I had a hard time getting out bed. However, I coped with
the pain by taking my medication and applying ice to my knees." The diary
will give the doctor some insight into your pain and may play a critical role
in the management of your disease.
What Will Happen When You First Visit a Doctor for Your Arthritis Pain?
The doctor will usually do the following:
- Take your medical history and ask questions such as: How long have you had
this problem? How intense is the pain? How often does it occur? What causes it
to get worse? What causes it to get better?
- Review the medications you are using.
- Conduct a physical examination.
- Take blood and/or urine samples and request necessary laboratory work.
- Ask you to get x rays taken or undergo other imaging procedures such as a
CAT scan (computerized axial tomography) or MRI (magnetic resonance
Once the doctor has done these things and reviewed the results
of any tests or procedures, he or she will discuss the findings with you and
design a comprehensive management approach for the pain caused by your
osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis.
Who Can Treat Arthritis Pain?
A number of different specialists may be involved in the care
of an arthritis patient -- often a team approach is used. The team may include
doctors who treat people with arthritis (rheumatologists), surgeons
(orthopaedists), and physical and occupational therapists. Their goal is to
treat all aspects of arthritis pain and help you learn to manage your pain. The
physician, other health care professionals, and you, the patient, all play an
active role in the management of arthritis pain.
How Is Arthritis Pain Treated?
There is no single treatment that applies to all people with
arthritis, but rather the doctor will develop a management plan designed to
minimize your specific pain and improve the function of your joints. A number
of treatments can provide short-term pain relief.