How to Talk to Your Health Care Professional about the Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis

Ask the Expert

Q:

I want to make sure my rheumatologist knows about the pain and stiffness rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is causing, but I'm afraid of being thought of as a complainer. What is the best way to discuss the RA symptoms I am experiencing?


A:

It's not you, it's RA.

Your rheumatologist knows that a chronic, painful disease like RA demands lifelong treatment and carries a high risk of continual symptoms if the condition is not treated optimally.  Never feel ashamed or embarrassed to bring your concerns to your rheumatologist's attention. Rheumatologists are trained to evaluate pain associated with RA and need to know how you are feeling. Managing RA requires open communication and a partnership with your doctor.

If pain and stiffness caused by RA are interfering with your daily routine, do not hesitate to consult your rheumatologist.  Waiting too long to consult a doctor about pain caused by RA, may cause symptoms to worsen. Your rheumatologist will want to ensure that you get the most from your treatment through the appropriate combination of medication, rest, exercise and other healthy habits.

Research shows higher levels of patient awareness and greater willingness to participate in treatment plans can lead to decreased pain and fewer visits to doctor’s offices for RA patients.  You should be commended for speaking up and being proactive about your health. Your attention to your body should never be perceived by your health care providers as complaining.

There are approximately 1.3 million people in the United States with rheumatoid arthritis. Know that you are not alone and do not be concerned with burdening your rheumatologist. Instead, see this as an opportunity to help in the diagnostic process and development of a treatment plan.

Remember, your health care providers cannot read minds. Be honest, specific and direct about what's bothering you. This will help ensure the best outcome for you and the best preparation for your rheumatologist.

For more information on living with RA and tips on balancing treatment, exercise and other healthy habits, visit www.HealthyWomen.org/RA. You also can create your own fitness plan at www.ReachBeyondRA.com.

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