An arthritis diagnosis is a life-changing experience. You suddenly have to think about treatment options, assess whether you want to take any medications, and come to terms with the fact that there’s no cure for your pain. What’s more, you have a million questions and with so much conflicting information online, it’s hard to find the right answers. Trying to manage all of this alone is impossible – you need to surround yourself with people who can give you the support you need, and help to find the right arthritis pain relief options for you. So, who should you include in your support network? While it differs from person to person, here’s an example of where you may want to start:
Friends and Family
Your friends and family are an essential component of your support team. No doubt they’ve been with you through the good and the bad for your whole life – and this is no different! You can decide how involved you want your loved ones to be on your arthritis journey. Perhaps you just want to be able to talk to them when things get overwhelming, or maybe you want them to play a more hands-on role and accompany you during your visits to the doctor – it can certainly help to have someone taking notes and helping you to remember all the new information you’re receiving.
Primary Care Physician
Following your arthritis diagnosis, you’re probably going to be seeing a lot more of your Primary Care Physician. Make sure they are someone you feel comfortable talking to, and someone who takes the time to address your concerns and questions. It’s important that you are as open and honest with them as possible – make sure they know about your lifestyle habits and any medications you are currently taking. With this information, they will be able to create a treatment plan that is specifically tailored to your needs and gives you the best chance of waving goodbye to your arthritis pain.
Specialist (if necessary)
Different types of arthritis require different levels of medical intervention, and depending on your specific needs you may or may not need to visit a specialist. If you have rheumatoid arthritis you should definitely see a rheumatologist, as this is a specialized condition resulting from immune system dysfunction. A rheumatologist will assess the severity of your arthritis and devise a treatment plan based on this. Over time, they’ll be able to monitor how the disease progresses and adjust your treatment as necessary.
Psychologist/Mental Health Care Specialist
Seeing a psychologist might seem like a big deal, and it’s certainly not necessary for everyone. However, depression and anxiety are extremely normal and common among arthritis patients – chronic pain affects mood, and it’s hard to maintain a positive outlook when you’re in constant discomfort. A newly diagnosed arthritis patient experiences many different emotions and changes to their life, and it can be helpful to have someone to talk the whole thing over with. Of course, your friends and family can provide emotional support, but sometimes it’s nice to have a professional (and a stranger) on board as well. They can help you to develop coping mechanisms and different methods for managing the diverse set of emotions that come with arthritis.
Exercise is a very important aspect of your arthritis treatment plan. Staying as active and mobile as possible is crucial when it comes to reducing your pain and improving mobility. However, many exercises are not suitable for arthritis sufferers, and it can be difficult to know which types of exercise will benefit you the most. This is where a physical therapist can help – they will be able to provide you with exercises to maintain your range of motion, improve your mobility and reduce your arthritis pain.
Many people find that making modifications to their diet can improve their arthritis symptoms. By avoiding inflammatory foods and eating a healthy, balanced diet, you may see a welcome reduction in your arthritis pain. A dietician can show you which foods to avoid and which foods to eat more of. If you’re looking to lose weight, they can help you there too – carrying extra weight puts more stress on your joints and worsens the pain associated with arthritis.
Dealing with an arthritis diagnosis is no easy task, but there is a whole group of wonderful, caring people out there just waiting to help you out. Make sure you’re never afraid to ask questions or seek help when you need it – that’s exactly what your arthritis support network is there for.