Other Than Pain Relief,

Other Than Pain Relief, How Is an Arthritis Treatment Rated?

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Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis in the world. It is a degenerative disease normally associated with age. Fortunately, there are treatments. But the other side of that coin is that even the best among them do not work for every patient. That leaves some patients looking for alternatives.

My question is this: how would a medical provider rate the success of a particular arthritis treatment, other than a patient’s pain experience itself? A patient would know whether a treatment worked based solely on how he felt. But a doctor cannot feel the patient’s pain. All he can do is ask the patient to rate it on a numerical scale.

A Battery of Clinical Tests

Imagine a fictional patient who lives in Salt Lake City, UT. Call her Mary. She has been seeing her primary care physician for osteoarthritis for more than a decade. She finally makes an appointment with KindlyMD to get a Utah medical card. With card in hand, she has access to an alternative treatment rooted in plant-based medicine.

Six months later, Mary sees her GP again. She is happy to report that the plant-based medicine has helped her tremendously. Her pain is now minimal. Is there anything else the doctor can do to verify the success of her treatment? Yes. There is a battery of tests he can perform.

3 Examples

Healthcare providers have access to a variety of tests that help them measure everything from pain to mobility. Here are three examples that are fairly common to osteoarthritis treatment:

1. Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Osteoarthritis Index (WOMAC)

WOMAC is administered as a questionnaire designed around gathering information about the impact of osteoarthritis on a patient’s daily life. It asks questions relating to pain, stiffness, and physical function. Patients are expected to answer the questions honestly. Doctors take data from the questionnaires and analyze it to determine treatment success.

2. Timed Up and Go (TUG)

The TUG test is a physical test rather than a questionnaire. It is administered by having the patient begin seated in a chair. The patient rises, walks a short distance, turns, and walks back to the chair, and sits down. Meanwhile, the healthcare provider measures the time it takes to complete each sequence. The goal is to measure mobility and balance.

3. Fast Gait Speed

Medical providers can get a good idea of functional mobility by way of the Fast Gait Speed, a physical test that measures how quickly an osteoarthritis patient can walk short distances. Gait speed is typically an indicator of limb function, flexibility, and walking ability.

All three of these tests pertain to osteoarthritis of the knee. A doctor would rely on different tests to measure pain and function in other joints.

Why Multiple Tests Are Used

At this point, you might be curious as to why multiple tests are used to rate the effectiveness of a particular treatment. It boils down to the simple truth that pain relief is not the only goal when treating osteoarthritis.

Pain relief is probably the most important goal for patients. But doctors are also interested in function and mobility. They know that when a person’s function and mobility are impaired, his quality of life is also reduced. So doctors want to see improvements in all three areas.

Osteoarthritis treatments are rated for effectiveness based on their ability to relieve pain while also improving function and mobility. Multiple tests are necessary because people respond differently to their treatments. More tests produce more data. More data provides a better understanding of a particular treatment.

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