Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) can make even simple tasks challenging. Even when you do everything right, you may still have pain and stiffness some days. Treatment takes time and often needs a bit of fine-tuning. It helps if you ask yourself these questions:
1. Do I take my RA medications on time every time?
It's important to take your medicine at the same time each day. This helps you keep a constant, effective level of medicine in your body. Skipping doses can trigger a flare.
If you’ve just started taking disease-modifying medicine such as methotrexate, keep in mind that it may take weeks or even months to feel the full benefits. Try to be patient and give the medicines a chance to really work.
If you have an upset stomach or other side effects, call your doctor. There are often things you can do to ease side effects.
2. Have I asked my doctor if I’m on the right medicines?
If they used to work and don’t seem to help anymore, ask your doctor if you need to make a change. Some disease-modifying drugs may become less effective with time.
Your doctor may suggest a different prescription or add another type of drug, such as a “biologic” drug, to your treatment.
3. Do I keep up with my regular checkups?
You need regular checkups and blood tests to check on how RA affects your body. These tests help your doctor reduce side effects of your medications and know if your treatment needs adjustment.
4. Have I tried alternative remedies for pain?
Studies show that meditation and biofeedback lower pain for some people and help them handle it better. Massage may help lessen your pain and stiffness and relieve stress. Acupuncture has also been shown to curb pain in other conditions, although it's not well researched for RA. These methods may not work for everyone, and it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor first, especially if you want to take any herbs or supplements, because some could affect your medications.