Arthritis Tip: Keep a journal to help with pain management

Living with arthritis means you live with pain and it is often daily. Arthritis is degenerative which means it will get worse over time. Because it will get worse, learning to manage the pain and learning to cope are essential to your management of the disease. Further, it is important to take control and to learn how arthritis affects you. You can do this by chronicling your pain and symptoms in a journal and taking the necessary steps to manage changes and to take action in order to get control of your condition.

Be prepared to work with your doctor. To work with your doctor, it is important to be prepared on what things you want to discuss when you go in for an appointment. Most doctors only get about fifteen minutes with each patient so be prepared ahead of time. Your journal will help you to track you symptoms and allow you to better communicate and work your doctor. Write down when your experiencing pain and other symptoms – rate your pain on a scale of one to ten with ten being the worst. When you have symptoms, describe when they happen and what you are doing at the time. Try to be accurate about when pain starts and what things that pain prevents you from doing. At your doctor visit, share this information with your doctor.

Learning from your journal. In addition to providing you  a method of communicating with your doctor, the information in your journal will help you to make lifestyle changes that will allow you to control and mange pain. Track the pain medications you take so you know how to plan ahead of time. For example, if you get very sore after exercising, then take pain medication a half hour before your activity. Your journal will also tell you which activities cause you more pain and you can plan by changing to activities that are easier on your joints or by making the appropriate changes so pain and stiffness do not get in the way.

Daily Medication. If your arthritis is not responding to lifestyle changes and a non-medicinal approach, then you should discuss with your doctor whether prescription medications are better suited for you. Daily use of acetaminophen and anti-inflammatories may help relieve pain but can be a detriment to your health in the long term. Your journal can help you keep track of over the counter pain medications so that you and your doctor can determine whether a prescription medication is more suitable for you.

Possible Food Triggers. Certain foods may increase arthritis symptoms and pain for some people. These include foods such as red meat, alcohol, and tomatoes. While there is no scientific evidence that shows a correlation between certain foods and arthritis, many patients have reported a change in symptoms once they changed their diet. Your journal can help you to track the foods that cause you inflammation and additional symptoms so that you can minimize and eliminate those from your diet.

If your treatment plan is not working. Your symptom journal is important because it will help you and your doctor to see whether the changes you have made have made a difference. Most doctors want to see an improvement in six to eight weeks. However, if diet, lifestyle changes, and medication don’t help, your doctor may suggest physical therapy, injunctions, and/or weight loss. If all these options fail, your doctor may suggest joint replacement surgery.

What if your arthritis continues to get worse?  If you are having pain even when you are at rest, this is a red flag for you and your doctor. If you are less active than you were before, this is also an indicator that your arthritis is getting worse. If so, keep communicating with your doctor to make more treatment changes for better arthritis pain relief.

There will be times where you feel that your arthritis pain and symptoms are out control. Other times, you will feel like your pain is managed and you can be more active. That is why tracking your symptoms and pain is important. It will allow you an opportunity to understand what triggers pain, what works to minimize it, will allow you to enjoy your life, and even prevent future damage to joints.


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