Apps and other digital tools can help you manage and track arthritis symptoms

In an increasingly digital world, apps and online tools can help you with many aspects of life, from ordering food and rides to keeping track of your daily experiences. There should be no surprise that a wealth of digital tools exist for people living with arthritis to help you self-manage your condition. While we won’t be suggesting or recommending a specific app for you, we’re here to help you navigate the options available so that you can find the right tool for your needs.

Types of Apps for Arthritis

An app (short for application) is computer software, most often a small, specific program designed for your mobile device, such as a smartphone or tablet. Mobile apps need to be downloaded to work on your device. A digital or online tool, on the other hand, is a software program, website or online resource intended to make tasks easier to complete. Many of these tools can be accessed from websites and don’t need to be downloaded.

Here are a few different types of apps and tools that can be helpful with arthritis management:

  • A symptom tracker – keep a record of your symptoms for self-management and to share with your doctor

  • A medication tracker – a medication reminder and recording tool to keep track of medications

  • An exercise app – a tool to help you stay active and record your exercise

  • A meditation, mindfulness, relaxation app – multiple resources exist to help you relax, clear your mind, or reduce stress

  • A communication tool – an app that can help you stay in touch with others in your community or even with your healthcare team

What to look for

When choosing an app or tool, there are a few things you should look for. Check the reviews online through the app store, or by typing the name of the app and “reviews” in a search engine. These sources can tell you what other people like or dislike about the app so that you can make an informed choice. You should look into how easy the tool is to use – will you understand it? Will it do what you want it to do? Finally, find out if medical professionals were involved in developing the app. Tools made with the support of healthcare providers can help ensure they are better suited to your needs.

What to avoid

There aren’t a lot of guidelines to determine how an app should operate, so here are a few things to look out for:

  • Always refer to your healthcare professional’s instruction and guidance for medication and dosage recommendations, and avoid apps that contradict these recommendations

  • Avoid apps that are heavily sponsored by companies looking to sell particular products, especially if purchasing a product is required to use the app

  • Look for tools that are unbiased and created by people with expertise in their field – sometimes you may need multiple apps to meet your needs, but if someone is an expert in symptom tracking, their app may be best for that requirement

  • If an app recommends an exercise routine, check first with your healthcare professional to make sure the exercises are appropriate for you

With all of these tips, the best person to know whether or not an app is helpful is you! Many apps and tools are free or offer many functions freely, so try a few based on your needs and go from there.  Other apps may charge a subscription fee, so before signing up, make sure the app is appropriate for you by doing your research and talking to your healthcare team first. Not sure where to start? Check out some of the Arthritis Society’s online tools here

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