Building A Treatment Plan

A treatment plan for any type of arthritis must be well-rounded and address the many physical, emotional, and logistical issues that a diagnosis of arthritis can present.

Your treatment plan should address your unique situation-your specific illness, your needs, your goals, and your personal circumstances. A plan that may work well for one person may not work for another, so it is important for your doctor, and other healthcare professionals, to understand you.

Here are some of the things you can do to build a well-rounded, effective treatment plan:

  • Build your team: your team of healthcare professionals should address many or all of the areas in your life that are impacted by arthritis. Members of your team will probably be made up of several different professionals, depending on your disease type and situation (for an in-depth look at some of the most common members of an arthritis health care team, see working with your health care team). Your team could include:
    • Rheumatologist
    • General practitioner
    • Internist
    • Dermatologist
    • Ophthalmologist
    • Orthopedic surgeon
    • Pediatric rheumatologist
    • Rheumatology nurse
    • Physiotherapist
    • Occupational therapist
    • Dietician
    • Counselor
  • Set out your goals: with the help of your team, decide on some realistic goals. These goals should be based on what is realistic within the context of your life. Setting these goals will give you the ability to measure your plan's success, and will help your healthcare team to understand where you want to go and help them to provide you with the tools to get there. Be specific; for example:
    • "I want to be able to go back to work 25 hours per week"
    • "I want to go to Europe and sightsee independently"
    • "I want to play tennis twice a week"
    • "I want to take my children to the park down the street every day"
  • Do your research: understanding your disease will help you make informed decisions and ask the right questions of your team. For some credible sources of arthritis information, see our resources page.

  • Make informed decisions: while building your treatment plan, you will almost certainly need to make some difficult decisions about treatment options-possibly including medications, surgeries, or complementary therapy. Know the potential risks and benefits of these treatments and then, with the help of your team, make the right decisions for yourself.

  • Live a healthy lifestyle: a well-rounded treatment plan for arthritis involves healthy body weight maintenance, appropriate levels of exercise, enough rest, good nutrition, and enough support from family and friends.

  • Engage others in your plan: make sure the people closest to you-family and/or close friends-understand your disease and your treatment plan. Your support system can be an extremely valuable resource. A word of caution: remember that you and your healthcare team are the experts in your disease. There is a huge amount of incorrect information about arthritis in the public domain. Do not let anyone, even the most well-meaning family members or friends, derail your treatment plan with old wives tales or half-remembered anecdotes.