The 6 Answers You Need to Understand Arthritis Treatment

What You Need to Know

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It's human nature to want a quick fix. I receive daily emails from people wanting to know what they should take to stop their joint pain. If only I had a simple, one-size-fits-all answer. I'd be rich, famous -- and pain-free myself!

However, I do have answers to some very important questions about arthritis treatment that will help you understand your treatment options, the goals of treatment, and exactly why your doctor makes certain recommendations.

Is There a Quick-Fix or Cure?

There is no cure for most forms of arthritis.  Arthritis can be a chronic disease which must be managed. There are treatment options that will help control pain, inflammation, or other arthritis symptoms. Some medications help to slow progression of the disease or allow some patients to achieve remission.

What Should You Know About Arthritis Treatment Options?

When considering arthritis treatment options, you can choose from a few different paths. There is the traditional treatment path which mostly focuses on prescription drugs and as a last resort, surgery. There is the natural approach to arthritis treatment which focuses on dietary supplements, herbs, botanicals, healthy eating, and an anti-inflammatory diet. There is also the alternative or complementary path which includes meditation, massage therapy, tai chi, yoga, and other non-pharmacologic treatment modalities.

You don't need to exclusively lock into one path -- there can be cross-over. For example, you may decide to take the prescription drugs your doctor prescribes, but also include massage therapy in your treatment regimen.

Which Treatment Option Is Right for You?

To decide which medication or treatment is right for you, your doctor will make recommendations based on your type of arthritis, how the different arthritis drugs work, and the goals of treatment.

With treatment, you want to decrease symptoms, slow disease progression, prevent further joint damage, and preserve range of motion and joint function. Based on your medical history and after considering the benefits and risks of treatment in your case, your doctor will prescribe what he considers safe and effective.  

What Should You Do When the Doctor Prescribes a Medication or Treatment?

When your doctor prescribes a new medication or treatment, be sure you know the name of what is being prescribed, how it should be administered, what side effects are possible, and when you should expect to see results. Be clear about what your doctor is ordering. You may think you don't need to ask for clarification since that information is stated on a prescription label once it is filled at a pharmacy. You do need to be clear before leaving the doctor's office. I have personally had a pharmacy question my doctor's well-stated instructions. For your own benefit, make sure you are clear about what your doctor intended.

You can also look up more information about a drug or treatment on the Internet. If the online information causes you to have more questions, don't hesitate to ask your doctor.

How Do You Know if a Treatment Is Working?

The most obvious way to judge if a particular treatment is working is to pay attention to how you feel. Specifically, has your pain level decreased? Have other bothersome arthritis symptoms decreased? Are you functioning more normally since treatment began?

Aside from subjective symptom assessment, blood tests (sedimentation rate and CRP) are often used to monitor inflammation.

What Should You Expect?

When you are prescribed a particular treatment or medication, view it as the starting gate, not the finish line. There will be trial-and-error before you discover what is most effective for you. You will likely change the dosage, switch drugs, or quit a specific medication along the way. Bottom line -- be patient and expect that there will be necessary changes.

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