Best Tools and Apps for Tracking RAby Cathy Kramer Patient Advocate
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a finicky condition. One day it might be your knees and feet that are screaming in pain and the next day it could be your hands and shoulder or your entire body. Other days, maybe you feel few symptoms. Plus, RA can affect your organs and is often accompanied by other conditions. The unpredictability of RA can make reporting your symptoms to your rheumatologist challenging if you aren’t tracking your symptoms between appointments.
Finding a tracking method
Luckily, there are many mobile apps on the market that allow tracking the day-to-day craziness of RA, so you can accurately report back to your healthcare team. Keeping good records of your symptoms, especially early on in your diagnosis, helps both you and your physician better understand your RA. Following are some of the apps used by many in the community.
Arthritis Power: helping you track RA
Arthritis Power is a free app created by the non-profit CreakyJoints. Within this app, an RA patient can track pain, fatigue, sleep, and other symptoms. Assessment questions are asked on a regular basis that help you have a thorough understanding of your symptoms. Plus, by customizing the tracking, you make it more personal to your needs. In addition, medications and labs can be logged.
Arthritis Power: helping RA research
What makes this app unique from others is that it was created with patient input. It is a registry that allows patients to monitor their own journey with arthritis but also to share their results with researchers, completely anonymously. Plus, there are opportunities to participate in research studies, communicate with other patients, and follow CreakyJoints on social media, all within the app.
Pain Diary & Community Catch: chart your pain
In this pain diary, the patient is able to make drawings around a body demonstrating where the pain is occurring, the time span of the pain, and the intensity. For the intensity, the options range from no pain to worst pain imaginable. Plus, you can add descriptions such as burning, exhausting, agonizing, paralyzing, and more. With your permission, local weather can be noted. After three entries, you can view a chart of your pain.
Pain Diary & Community Catch: share with others
Medications can be stored for easy access and there is the option to email the diary link. This is a nice option if you’d like to share with your family or physicians. This app also has community support where you can ask questions or help others.
This app is free, but a pro version can be purchased. There are added features on the iPad, Android Tablet, Mac, and PC.
MyRA: day-to-day tracking
This a free app is offered by VectraDA. The “Big Picture” gives an overall feel for the day such as “very good” or “very bad.” For joint pain, one has the option of clicking on a body — one tap shows mild pain, two taps moderate pain, and three taps show severe pain. In addition, your own personal photos can be stored in the app. There is also a microphone built in so you can share your information orally.
MyRA: store vital information
My RA allows morning stiffness duration to be noted as well as fatigue for the day. Each day medications can be added. Labs can also be stored. An overall summary of your pain can be accessed, which makes a nice printout to take to an appointment or quickly emailed to your healthcare team and/or family.
Other options for tracking RA symptoms
Reaching out to the community, it seems that many who have had RA for some time prefer to keep more general notes to share with their rheumatologist rather than tracking their progress each day. Why? Tracking each day feels like an emphasis is put on the disease rather than living life. Plus, the longer one lives with RA, the better you understand what rheumatologists will be looking for at appointments.
How to track without an app
There are various ways to track symptoms when not using an application.
- Spreadsheet: Create your own tracking symptom based on the things that are most important to you.
- Notes: This is an app found on many mobile devices. Notice something new? Quickly jot it down and it is there with you at your next appointment.
- Notebook: A small notebook that is kept in your purse can easily be a place to make notes of things you want to remember to share with your doctor.
What to track
What you track depends completely on you. Some things that may be important:
- Medications and how they affect you
- Pain levels
- Joints that are in pain and for how long
- Joint swelling
- Morning stiffness duration (how long it takes to loosen up joints in the morning)
- Fatigue — is anything in particular taking your energy?
- Foods that may be causing inflammation
- Exercise — what are you doing or not doing plus how do you feel afterward?
- Stress — how are your levels and how are you managing it?
Find what works for you
In the end, what is most important is that you find a way to track your symptoms that works best with your personal style. What works for many may not work for you. This may mean trying out several different tracking methods until you find the best method for you. Also, be sure to check with your healthcare team. They may have additional ideas for you that will make working together and getting your RA under control a win-win for everyone.