Staying on schedule with needed arthritis medications can be difficult, but a variety of strategies could help keep you on track.

If you have moderate to severe arthritis, its likely that you’re taking a variety of medications to treat your pain and prevent flare-ups. But juggling multiple medications while trying to stick to what is often a complex treatment plan can make staying on schedule with your medications an especially difficult challenge. When skipping medications invariably occurs, it can make arthritis and joint pain even harder to control while removing a critical step necessary to ensure that you’re maintaining the health of your joints and overall body.

Establishing a routine that includes taking medications at the same time each day or the same day of the week can help you stay on track.

To stay on track, the Arthritis Foundation suggests working with your doctor to set a medication schedule. One of the top reasons why people skip a dose of medication is that they simply forget to take it. Establishing a routine that includes taking medications at the same time each day or the same day of the week can help you stay on track. In addition, you also may find that weekly pill organizers or online medication reminders are helpful strategies in remembering to take your medication.

Since cost can sometimes be an obstacle to taking medication, the Arthritis Foundation encourages you to explore all your options. Your doctor may be able to switch your prescription to a generic version of a drug or give you free samples to try out. Discounted drug prices can also be explored through your insurance plan, AARP or pharmacy. And don’t forget to ask your pharmacist if buying a 90-day medication supply instead of a 30-day supply can help cut costs.

In some cases, a doctor may be able to prescribe a higher-dose tablet that can be cut in half to stretch funds, but you should always check with your pharmacist and physician before cutting any medication in half. Some drugs can be less effective or harmful if cut.

The Arthritis Foundation also recommends asking your doctor about combination therapies, which offer multiple medications in one pill. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, for instance, recently approved a new combination drug to treat osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis. Combination therapies can reduce the number of pills needed each day, helping to ease the hassle of keeping up with multiple pills. In addition, don’t forget to talk to your doctor about longer-lasting medications, which can further reduce the number of pills you would need to take and help keep your treatment on track.

You may also want to talk to your doctor about your diet. The relationship between diet and arthritis is complex. Specific dietary recommendations may vary based upon your particular condition, but weight management is a key factor in coping with arthritis, as excess weight puts additional strain on joints and could make the condition more painful.

The Arthritis Foundation has additional tips and resources for people living with arthritis and joint pain on its website, arthritis.org.

The rewards of stretching

According to the Arthritis Foundation, physical exercise and stretching benefit arthritis patients by lubricating joints and enhancing range of motion. Studies reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have shown that incorporating these exercises into your weekly routine can lessen pain and improve joint function, mood and quality of life for adults suffering from arthritis.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the following physical activity:

2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity per week OR
1 hour and 15 minutes of vigorous intensity aerobic activity per week OR
An equivalent combination of moderate and vigorous activity
Plan to incorporate muscle-strengthening exercises two or more days per week and balance exercises three days per week.

Key exercises include:

Low-impact aerobic activities: Incorporate walking, biking, water aerobics, dancing, group exercise classes and gardening.

Muscle-strengthening exercises: Don’t neglect weight training, calisthenics such as wall push-ups or chair squats and working with resistance bands, all of which can be done at home, at the gym or in a class.

Balance exercises: Try walking backward, balancing on one foot or yoga. Grab a partner or exercise in a group setting if you are at risk of falling.

Dr. Patience White, M.D., M.A., is the vice president of Public Health Policy and Advocacy for the Arthritis Foundation, leading the organizations public health policy and advocacy initiatives to bring national attention to arthritis, the leading cause of disability in the U.S. In this role, she forms strategic partnerships to promote proven interventions, public health policies and public health communication strategies, with an emphasis on reducing arthritis-related disparities in health/health care and advancing policies on the federal and state level that help people with arthritis.