To get the full benefits of your rheumatoid arthritis treatment, it sometimes takes a little bit of fine-tuning along with a dose of patience. Ask yourself these questions to see if you're doing all you can to get your pain and stiffness under control.
1. Do you take your RA medications on time?
It's important to keep a regular schedule for your meds. Take them at the same time each day. They work better if you keep a constant level of medicine in your body. Don't skip a dose, because it can trigger a flare.
Keep in mind that some medicines, like methotrexate, can take weeks or even months to completely kick in. Try to be patient and give your meds a chance to work.
If you get an upset stomach or other side effects, call your doctor. There are often things you can do to feel better.
2. Have you asked your doctor if you're on the right medicines?
If they used to work and don't seem to help anymore, it may be time for a change. Some "disease-modifying" drugs may not work as well after a while.
Your doctor may suggest a different prescription or add another type of drug, such as a "biologic," to your treatment.
3. Do you keep up with regular checkups?
Some RA drugs weaken your immune system -- your body's defense against germs. This helps slow down the disease, but it can make infections more likely, as well as liver and kidney problems.
Make sure you see your doctor for regular blood tests. They help him figure out if you need to tweak your treatment.
4. Have you tried alternative remedies for pain?
Studies show that meditation and biofeedback lower pain for some people and help them handle it better. Massage may ease your stress, cut stiffness, and make your joints hurt less. Research shows that acupuncture can be helpful for other conditions, but it's not been well-studied 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.
5. Is your doctor a good fit for you?
You’ll want to see a rheumatologist, a doctor who specializes in arthritis and other joint and muscle problems. He should be someone who responds to your needs and takes the time to find the best treatment plan for you. He should be willing to make changes to your treatment if you don't feel better, and to refer you to other health pros such as physical therapists and occupational therapists.