Sharpening your tools

Sharpening your tools

Managing RA has many components to it, all of which are crucial to successfully navigating the world of chronic disease.  One of those is keeping up to date on the “tools” we use.  By that I mean, the items that help us to relieve, alleviate or, at least make bearable, symptoms and the flares that are a never ending gift of RA.

Kinesiology tape for RA?

Over the years, the many tools we use have changed, often upgraded and improved. So it behooves us to stay current on those changes and then decide if they are useful and appropriate for our needs.  For instance, in the last several years, a new item has appeared for use on rheumatoid joints – kinesiology tape.  Some folks like it, some do not.  Some doctors like it, some do not.  It has been around for many years for use with athletes but fairly recently has started to find other uses.  Something to think about.

Braces and joint sleeves for RA

Braces and joint sleeves have changed so much over the years.  When I first started to use them, they were bulky, stiff and made of rough, often uncomfortable fabric and material.  Now you can get them made of moisture wicking, lightweight material like neoprene that you forget you even have on!  I recently went through my inventory of braces and discovered that I had many I no longer used and so I got rid of them and now have updated, comfortable ones that I can access easily and work so much better.  Some have hinges, some have metal inserts, the range is pretty extensive and so making sure they work for you is important.  A good example are the neck options.  The old fashioned neck supports were made of stiff white itchy material with little flexibility. I have one now that is made of a moisture wicking material and is adjustable and so comfortable.  Chat with your doctor or Physical Therapist if you have questions about what might work best for you.  Ensuring that the devices are safe to use is a consideration and one that medical professionals can be tremendously helpful with.

Topical solutions for RA pain

As to ointments and creams, there is a plethora of options.  Some have natural ingredients, some have supplements, anti-inflammatory elements, etc.  The key is to try a small tube first and see if it works before you invest in a large quantity. Again, over the last decade, options have exploded and that is great news for us, but it does take some time to sort through the choices.

Your doctor's opinion of these tools is key!

Supplements are another tool and one that we should use carefully and with consultation with your medical care team to ensure that they do not have side effects or drug interactions that might be prohibitive for you to use.  That said, there are folks who swear by the use of them for a variety of issues related to their RA management.  New ones hit the market constantly and research on them is increasing each year, so keeping up with the latest information is imperative.

Heating/cooling options for our joints is yet another area that has seen some really interesting developments.  It used to be you used a traditional heating pad or ice bag and that was that.  Nowadays there are some really efficient and wonderful heating and cooling pads and packs that work great.  For heating you can pop them in the microwave and for cooling they are wrapped in comfortable material that can freeze in just a couple of hours, if that.  They make them for wrists, backs, shoulders, necks, knees, etc.

All of this said, if you have “tools” that work really well for you, no matter how long you have had them, there is no need to change for the sake of change.  But keeping up on the latest options can be a great way to “sharpen your tools” and ensure success in managing RA.


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