Both rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and osteoarthritis are chronic degenerative diseases that require long-term care. However, if you're not seeing the improvement you'd like to, here's some insight into what may hinder - and improve - your treatment.

1. Not following your prescribed treatment.
The term used by the medical community is "non-compliance of a treatment plan". Some sources suggest that at least 50 percent of patients do not follow through on treatment, including taking medications correctly.

Many patients cite problems such as drug side effects, expense, or simply forgetting. However, not following your rheumatologist's or orthopaedic doctors advice can make your symptoms worse and cause your arthritis to progress more quickly.

Find solutions, not excuses, for problems with your treatment.
If a drug is too expensive, ask your doctor to recommend an alternative that's as effective, but cheaper. If you always forget to take your meds on time, get a watch with an alarm to keep yourself on schedule.

2. Not taking a holistic approach.
If you rely only on drugs to treat your arthritis, you may be hampering your arthritis treatment. Holistic medicine involves treating the whole person, not just the symptoms. Each individual is treated differently because the symptoms of diseases and illnesses vary in each person.

Add holistic treatments for arthritis to your plan.
They may include exercise, dietary changes, hydrotherapy, tai chi, yoga, and acupuncture. If you choose to use herbal remedies, speak to your doctor about possible side effects with any arthritis drugs you're taking. Some mainstream doctors aren't comfortable discussing holistic approaches so you may need to consult with a holistic or naturopathic doctor.

3. Rushing into exercise.
Range-of motion, strengthening and other exercises are vital to keeping your joints stable. If you hurry through your exercise regimen you'll likely not warm up or cool down properly, and use poor technique. All of these can increase arthritis pain and cause injury.

According to the Arthritis Research Campaign, acute injuries to joints, muscles, tendons and ligaments can cause bleeding, swelling and pain. This will set your treatment back for some time.

Try to set aside at least 25 minutes for your arthritis exercises each day.
This gives you at least three minutes for your warm-up, three minutes for the cool down, and over 15 minutes for your exercises. Use assistive devices if necessary and pay attention to proper technique.

4. Not using arthritis aids.
There are many assistive devices that offer support to people with arthritis. Some of the most common are knee, elbow and wrist braces, grab bars, and ergonomic office products. However, one study indicated that up to 23 percent of assistive devices owned by people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) are abandoned. This may create additional stress on, or instability of, your joints.

Use the assistive device your physician recommends as much as possible
. Some aids may be uncomfortable to use at first, so give them a breaking-in period. If the discomfort persists, consult with your doctor. It may be that the aid doesn't fit or wasn't installed properly, or you're not using it correctly. If a recommended aid seems too expensive, find out if your health plan will cover it before dismissing it altogether.

5. Believing treatment isn't effective.
According to the Arthritis Foundation, most Americans are convinced that nothing can be done about arthritis. As a result up to 40 percent of people who complain of chronic joint symptoms do not seek a doctor's diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

The fact is arthritis treatment has improved significantly over the past two decades. There are several new groups of drugs such as biological modifiers, and disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs that help to fight processes in the body that cause rheumatoid arthritis. Also, several studies show that exercise, other natural remedies and lifestyle changes can relieve RA and osteoarthritis.

Consult with your doctor and other health professionals to get the most appropriate treatment for your symptoms and stage of your disease.
And follow the treatment plan.

Study References

Journal: Clinical Rheumatology, Volume 28, Number 2

Study Date: February 2009

Study Name: Assistive devices: usage in patients with rheumatoid arthritis


Author(s): I. G. de Boer, A. J. Peeters, H. K. Ronday, B. J. A. Mertens, T. W. J. Huizinga and T. P. M. Vliet Vlieland