Talking to Your Doctor

Living with arthritis can be challenging. The good news? You and your doctor can work together to create a disease management plan that fits your needs.

Explore the tabs and tools below to learn more about the different disease management options for rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and osteoarthritis (OA) and how to have easier conversations with your doctor.

A disease management plan should combine medications with other approaches. Since RA is a progressive disease, different treatment options may be appropriate at different stages. It is important to start treatment soon after diagnosis.

Rheumatoid arthritis has no cure but medications can help reduce the signs and symptoms.

An RA disease management plan may include some of following:


Corticosteroids, also known as steroids, are used on a short-term basis to help with the inflammation associated with RA.

How it is taken

Pill or an injection into a muscle or directly into an affected joint


NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) are used primarily to help with relief of joint pain and inflammation.

How it is taken

Pill or patch


Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) work to reduce the body's overactive immune and/or inflammatory processes that cause RA symptoms such as joint pain and swelling. The DMARD family can be classified as the following:

Non-Biologic DMARDS

Traditional non-biologic DMARDs, like methotrexate, are often prescribed at the time of diagnosis. Oral synthetic small molecules, like Janus kinase (JAK) inhibitors, are another class of non-biologic DMARDs.

How they are prescribed

Injection or pill

Biologic DMARDs

Biologic DMARDs are proteins manufactured using recombinant DNA technologyCLOSERecombinant DNA Technology: performed in laboratories, it is the joining together of different genetic materials that will make proteins that can be used as drugs.. They are immunosuppressantsCLOSE Immunosuppressants: treatments that suppress the immune system. that target and block the action of cells or chemicals that enable the immune system to cause inflammation and other symptoms of RA. Types of biologic DMARDs include tumor necrosis factor inhibitors (TNFis) and non-TNFis.

How they are prescribed

Injection or infusion


While surgery isn’t for everyone, it may be an option for people with severe joint damage that limits joint function.

In OA—the most common form of arthritis—joint cartilage breaks down over time, causing symptoms like joint pain and stiffness.

Like RA, OA has no cure but medications and other approaches can help reduce symptoms.

An OA disease management plan might include some of following:

Physical Activity/Weight Management

Exercise and weight management are important steps in an OA treatment plan. Why? Because studies show that excess weight can add stress to joints, and simple exercises, like walking, can help reduce joint pain and stiffness, improve muscle strength, and may help you maintain—or reach—a healthier weight.


Analgesics are medications that relieve pain. Analgesics include some over-the-counter drugs and some prescription medications.

How it is taken



NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) are a type of analgesic that help with relief of joint pain and inflammation.

How it is taken



Corticosteroids help with inflammation.

How it is taken

Injection into an affected joint

Hyaluronic Acid

In people with OA, the natural lubricant between joints begins to disappear. Hyaluronic acid is used to replace the natural lubricant that is lost due to OA.

How it is taken

Injection into an affected joint


While surgery isn’t for everyone, it may be an option for people with severe joint damage that limits joint function.

Doctor Partnership

Your doctor may be a medical expert, but you’re the expert when it comes to knowing how you feel. It’s important that you talk openly with your doctor about how the symptoms of RA are impacting you.

To help you in talking openly with your doctor, we’ve created a simple worksheet where you can record your goals, questions, and concerns. All you need to do is fill out the worksheet below. When you’re finished, you can print or e-mail the completed worksheet and then share it with your doctor.


Disease Management Goals

Work with your doctor to define your goals and disease management plan.
Use the thought starters below to begin the conversation.


Questions for Your Doctor

While sitting on the exam room table, it can be difficult to think of all the questions you want to discuss with your doctor. To help you make the most of your next appointment, we created a list of questions that you may want to ask—plus, space to add a few of your own. That way, you can leave your doctor’s office knowing you have the answers you need.

1. What type of exercise do you recommend for me?
2. Will my disease management plan help me improve my physical functioning or ability to complete some daily activities?
3. What lifestyle changes would you recommend to help me manage my disease?
4. Should physical or occupational therapy be a part of my disease management plan?

Post-Appointment Tips

After your appointment, you may be asking yourself, “Now what?” We’ve put together a list of things you can do to help manage your arthritis, even after visiting your doctor.

Finding a Pharmacy

Some arthritis treatments may only be available through a specialty pharmacy. Specialty pharmacies are different than your neighborhood pharmacy in that they offer extra support for patients taking medications for chronic conditions.

Often, they will arrange to have your medication delivered right to your front door. Work with your insurance provider to find a pharmacy that works for you.

Keeping Up with Treatment

If you’ve started treatment for arthritis, it’s important that you take your medication exactly as prescribed by your doctor. There are simple things you can do to help you in remembering when it’s time to take your medication.

First, you can set reminders on your mobile phone. You can also combine taking your medication with a task, like brushing your teeth.

Leaning on Your Support System

When you’re feeling alone, remember to lean on your loved ones. Even though they may not understand exactly what you’re going through, they’re likely willing to listen, laugh, or love when you need them.

Plus, we’re here to offer advice on how to manage arthritis in your daily life—from tips on sex and dating to empowering techniques on how to take control of your finances.

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