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You are the only person who knows how your symptoms feel, what aggravates your joints, what times are the worst or which movements hurt more than others. So get in the driver's seat at your rheumatoid arthritis (RA) appointments and lead the discussion!
How to get started?
I like to keep a diary of how I am feeling. You know how artists usually mention that their best work comes from sad or lovesick times, the same goes with an RA diary! We pay the closest attention when we aren’t feeling our best. Start to write down specifics in a diary: the date, time, what joint(s) hurt, how they are feeling… I like to go a bit further and note what activities I was doing in the past 24+ hours and foods I ate that may have caused the discomfort. Are you stressed? Do you have a cold? Have you been taking your medicine and/or vitamins regularly? Try to take this time to analyze your RA, be your own detective and write down your thoughts along the way. Bring this journal to your next appointment with flags of major RA flares; you and your rheumatologist may find some similar trends. In the long run, your doctor may be able to customize your treatment to meet the needs of your specific arthritis.
What to bring?
We all know that physician appointments are expensive, so make the most out of your time. Come prepared with a checklist of your top priorities to discuss, so this time when the doctor asks if you have any questions, the answer is yes! Maybe you’ve been feeling a lot of relief and you want to discuss the possibilities of reducing the dose of a medication. Or perhaps, you are interested in some non-pharmacologic (non-medication) therapies he/she has seen to be beneficial in helping relieve RA symptoms (gluten-free diet, vegetarian/low animal fat diet, yoga, swimming, omega 3’s, etc.). If you have been experiencing a lot of active joint pain, it might be time to discuss an alternate medication therapy. Prioritize your topics and speak up with what matters to you the most first.
At the appointment