Rheumatoid arthritis is an uncomfortable disease in its mildest form. More severe cases can be completely debilitating. With that in mind, we encourage rheumatoid arthritis patients to not wait to discuss pain with their doctors. If there are any changes in the level or type of pain a patient experiences, a discussion with the doctor is warranted.
The CDC estimates that about 58.5 million Americans have been diagnosed with some sort of arthritis. Among them, approximately 1.5 million suffer from rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease characterized by the patient's own immune system attacking joints.
Not waiting to talk with the doctor about your pain is important for a couple of reasons, the first being that immune response changes over time. Like everything else in your body, your immune system is constantly trying to adapt. As your circumstances change, the way your body responds is likely to change as well.
Pain management doctors try to home in on those changes to figure out what is going on. They can do a better job of helping you manage pain or your pain medication if you let them know about changes as soon as you notice them. Simply put, the sooner you and your doctor can address changes in how you feel, the greater the chances of effectively dealing with the resulting pain.
It is well understood by pain management physicians that lifestyle changes can help some patients with rheumatoid arthritis feel better, especially as winter sets in. This is yet another reason to speak to your doctor as soon as possible when your pain levels change.
A good example familiar to many rheumatoid arthritis patients is maintaining some level of activity. Physical activity helps to maintain muscle, tendon, and joint strength. In turn, stronger joints tend to feel less painful. But what if changes in your condition lead you to be less active?
Reduced activity is a common risk among rheumatoid arthritis patients. As pain increases, activity levels decrease. Some patients eventually become sedentary in order to avoid more pain. What they do not realize is that less activity is probably increasing their pain
Sticking to the same example of physical activity, waiting too long can make it harder for your doctor to help you manage increased pain. Let's say you notice more pain in one of your joints and it prompts you to make an appointment with your doctor right away. The two of you can come up with strategies to address the change before it begins seriously limiting your activity.
On the other hand, if you wait until you are already sedentary to speak with your doctor, it is going to be much harder to come up with a good pain management plan. It's certainly going to be more difficult to get back into a regular routine that includes more activity.
By itself, pain is not a disease or condition. It is a symptom of some other issue. At pain management clinics, we tend to think of rheumatoid arthritis pain as a signal of what the patient's immune system is doing. How a patient experiences the pain can tell us a lot about the current state of the disease.
It is better for your doctor to know about changes in those signals as soon as possible. So if you suffer from rheumatoid arthritis, whether you seek treatment from your GP or a pain management doctor, be sure to speak up about changes in your condition as soon as you observe them.