How to Get the Support and Care to Help Manage Arthritis

Managing arthritis alone can be challenging, if not impossible. Fortunately, doctors, alternative practitioners, friends and family can all play a role.

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Quality medical care is an invaluable asset in the management of your arthritis. But doctors cannot act alone. They need their patients’ help to ensure the best quality care. This includes asking questions, sharing information with doctors about feelings and observations, and making sure to take medication as prescribed. If a patient is having problems with your medication, it is important to discuss that with doctors, working together to find the best possible treatment for each unique situation.

Be Smart About Complementary and Alternative Medicine

Because some people have a difficult time managing their arthritis symptoms with prescribed medications, they may seek out other methods. Complementary medicine is used along with standard treatments, while alternative medicine is used instead of standard treatment. Together, they are often referred to as CAM. CAM is a broad category that includes dietary supplements, such as glucosamine or fish oil, mind-body techniques like yoga and t’ai chi, energetic approaches, such as acupuncture or acupressure, and manipulation like massage and chiropractic.

It is very important to discuss any potential CAM treatments with a doctor, because some may not be advisable. Also, be sure that all complementary care is received from a well-trained, experienced professional who is familiar with the arthritis. Some CAM treatments can be very helpful for arthritis, while other show little evidence of any effect. A good source of scientific information about CAM is the National Institute of Health. Their CAM website has unbiased information about many CAM methods.

Foster Supportive Relationships with Family and Friends

Social support is a term for the network of people who play an important role in an individual’s day-to-day life. It includes the neighbor who lends a cup of sugar, the sister who calls just to check in, the spouse who helps to remember medication regimens. Social support is one of the reasons why married people live longer – they help take care of each other. It is also one of the reasons why women tend to live longer than men, especially after they’ve lost a spouse. Women tend to have larger networks of close friendships. And social support goes both ways. It is reciprocated by taking in in the neighbors’ mail during their vacation, asking a sister about her kids, or bringing home some healthy dinner to share with a spouse. These supportive relationships are emotionally fulfilling, but they are also important for physical health.

Fostering these close relationships can actually help patients to live longer and healthier lives, and can reduce the impact that arthritis symptoms have on everyday life. This happens because the immune system is better regulated, there are people to be active with, patients are more likely to take care of themselves, and have a little extra help when they most need it.

Proper arthritis management requires a team of trained professionals and the leader of that team is the patient themselves. By communicating fully with practitioners, using alternative treatments wisely, and enlisting the support of loved ones, persons with arthritis can optimize the benefits of the care they receive.