September 06, 2019

Living With Arthritis




The Mayo Clinic defines the disease as: 

- "the swelling and tenderness of one or more of your joints. The main symptoms of arthritis are joint pain and stiffness, which typically worsen with age. The most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis."


That's the definition in its simplest terms. There are numerous diseases which fall under the general category of arthritis, each with its own symptoms and treatments.





I have osteoarthritis, but my mother had rheumatoid arthritis as does one of my maternal aunts. The progression has been slow but gradual. I first noticed symptoms I wasn't sure of when I was in my late 40s. A decade later it was obvious I had inherited the disease. I consider myself very lucky in that up to this point, it doesn't impact my life the way it did my mother who was nearly crippled by it. Ironically, when she developed metastatic bowel CA, the drugs she was given to treat that also helped with the worst of her arthritis symptoms. I'm grateful she was spared having to deal with both diseases at the same time.



Triggers & Symptoms

Everyone's experience with arthritis is different. I find deep low pressure really hits me hard.  It is thought that changes in barometric pressure affects the fluid in the joints, triggering symptoms. Cold, damp conditions can also cause a flare-up with me. 

The medical profession will tell you that weather is still considered "anecdotal" when it comes to joint issues. In other words, its not proven, but you try telling that to the millions of people who have it.


My right side is affected the most, particularly in my shoulder and hip. When I'm having a full blown attack I ache from the right side of my head down to my right ankle. Oddly enough, it also affects my digestive system, giving me reflux and nausea. Sleep is also affected, the pain is either worse or more noticeable at night, I'm not sure which it is. I had a great GP, now retired and greatly missed, who told me why pain was worse at night, but I can't recall what he told me. 



Treatment

Icing the shoulder eases the headache (the pain almost always goes up the side of my neck into that side of the head), while a warm, not hot, pack helps the stiffness in the hip. I'll take paracetamol at the start of a bout and sometimes it helps. Too much pain reliever just aggravates the stomach problems. However once the symptoms have dug in, all I can do is wait it out. 

I have been doing some reading about the theory that diet can affect the body's inflammatory response. The idea is that our modern diets with so much processed food, fat, salt and sugar may make some diseases worse. My husband and I recently changed our eating habits with an eye to weight loss, so I'm hoping that it might also help with the arthritis. 


You sometimes feel like its a Catch-22 situation; you are told to keep your weight down and stay active, but doing so doesn't seem to lessen the severity of an attack. I'm just grateful it doesn't happen more often. I still walk lots and until recently, cycled. My bike was stolen, an all too common occurrence these days, and I haven't replaced it yet. And I'm getting better at being mindful to take frequent stretch breaks from my desk when I'm working. 


The last week or so has seen the jet stream fall just south of the country and with it came low pressure, wind, rain and disappointing temperatures for mid-August. Cue me obsessively checking the weather app for signs that it's moving the hell on to aggravate someone else's body.


In the meantime, you are still expected to be on deck and attending to business when all you want to do is curl up in bed and die. 


I know its going to get to the point where I will need prescribed drugs of some sort, but I'm holding off as long as I can. Keep eating healthy, walking, stretching and hoping the weather Gods smile on me. 


Do you have joint or muscle issues? How do you cope? 

1 comment:

  1. Interesting perspective, thank you. I never thought much about the jet stream and barometric pressure but it makes sense.
    I have osteoarthritis in my left knee and probably in my right I believe brought on by falling on that knee on two different occasions. I had a full knee replacement about 7 years ago and my surgeon said he had never seen a knee as bad as mine, not much encouragement there but I understand now why I have a hard time walking distances. Bluntly said, I hate it!
    I have learned the stronger my thigh/leg muscles the easier walking is, so every other morning I'm in the pool concentrating on exercises to strengthen that part of me. What a difference in my mobility. I haven't taken any drugs for any of my inflammation issues mostly because of my BP. I'll use ice if need be.
    Great post Ali.

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