My doctor is forever telling me that I wait too long to do something about the pain. I start Prednisone as soon as I have a flare-up. Prednisone is the wonder drug, right? Well, it doesn’t work that well for me. I have Tramadol that I can take as needed for the pain. The problem is that I have to work and can’t work when taking Tramadol. I usually only take it at night and suffer during the day. Even when I do take it at night, it makes me feel drowsy the next day so I avoid it if I have to work the next day. I use ice packs, heating pads, Biofreeze and whatever else I can find that may help. Sometimes taking a hot shower helps. Sometimes taking a cold shower helps. Sometimes, nothing helps. So, how do you take charge of pain? I know we all struggle with this. Don’t you hate when people post things saying that they cured RA through diet or exercise? If my doctor told me that I could cure my RA by eating only carrots for three months, I would eat carrots for three months. If my doctor told me that Pilates or yoga would cure my RA, I would enroll in a class right now. There is no cure for RA.
Doctors tell you to exercise. How do you do this if you are in pain? They say modify the exercises so as not to affect the joint that is inflamed. How do you this if every day a new joint hurts? I would love to see someone take a holistic and medical approach to RA management. I belong to a HMO that does not embrace alternative forms of treatment. My doctor wants to give me a pill or injection and send me on the way. We do not discuss diet, exercise, massage therapy, acupuncture, or herbal remedies. Let me back up for a moment. My doctor does tell me that I need to exercise but she doesn’t tell me how to do this or give me suggestions. I believe that people with a chronic illness and pain should be assigned a case manager that works with you to help manage your illness. Maybe a life coach that can make recommendations for diet, exercise, alternative forms of treatments, and other pain managing tips. I can dream, right?
I have my teeth cleaned every three months because of dry mouth associated with the RA. After one such cleaning, I complained that my gums hurt afterwards. The hygienist suggested that I take a Tylenol or Motrin before the appointment and to take one afterwards. You know what? It worked. I started thinking about how I could use this approach to take charge of my pain. After a recent bout of flare-ups, I gave in and took the Tramadol, which meant that I could not go to work. I could not have worked anyway because I was not able to walk. I had to take a week off from work while I struggled to gain control of the pain and the flare-ups. I allowed myself the time off. I needed to deal with the pain instead of trying to power through it. After four months of non-stop pain, being sick, and feeling worn down, I was finally able to gain control of the flare-ups. My RA meds were changed so that had a lot to do with it. However, instead of pushing myself, powering through the pain, I allowed myself some down time. I did not cook for one week. I did not do the laundry, clean the house, or do any house work. I believe this down time gave my body a chance to recharge, stabilize, and build up much needed strength.
Pain is harsh on your system and your mental state. After my last bout of flare-ups, I lost 25 pounds. I needed to lose the weight but not because of pain. Pain wore me down. Pain made me angry. Pain made me impatient. My whole day, every minute was focused on dealing with pain. At one point, I cried out, “There is so much pain, it is not right.” Sound familiar? Even though I have my flare-ups under control, I walk around waiting for the next flare-up. I think I have a form of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Think about it. PTSD is an anxiety disorder that develops following frightening, stressful, or distressing life events. What is more frightening than the thought that you might not be able to work again? What is more stressful or distressing but to live in intense pain? Trying to get a jump on that pain before it consumes you is so important to your overall health but it is not an easy task.
My mother is a devout Christian woman who is “old school” or so I thought. Awhile back, she brought my husband and me a jar of mystery ointment that she said a friend makes to help with arthritis. My mother uses it all the time and she swears by it. My husband has osteoarthritis in his knees so we were both open to trying this mystery ointment. My husband said he garnered some relief from the ointment so he started using it every day. I was able to get temporary relief in areas where the joints were not substantially inflamed. It was only after weeks of using it that my mother confessed that the ointment was marijuana (hemp) based and she purchased it from a local “pot grower.” She also gave us another jar of mystery ointment that contains arnica. It provided limited relief me. Unlike my mother, I don’t feel comfortable going to the local “pot grower” for mystery ointments. I found on Amazon numerous ointments containing hemp and one that contained hemp and arnica. This latter is listed below. My husband and I are getting some relief from this product. Again, for me, if the pain is not substantial, I am more likely to get relief from this product. If my pain is out of control, this product does not even touch the pain. Before using any new products, please check with your doctor to make sure it does not interfere with your current treatment.
Organic Hemp Pain Relief Cream – 300 Mg – Made in USA – Natural Hemp Extract Cream for Muscle, Inflammation, Joint, Back, Neck, Knee & Arthritis Pain with Arnica, Aloe, MSM & EMU Oil – GMO-Free
So, if you take anything away from my rants today, be kind to yourself. Be your own case manager and explore different ways to manage your pain. If you feel pain coming on, use what has worked in the past to address the pain and start treating the pain immediately. Don’t wait. Give yourself time to handle the pain and get it under control. Will all of you out there reading this, remind me to do this next time I have a flare-up. I am sometimes my own worst enemy.
***My goal has always been to grow old gracefully. Now, I just want to grow old pain free. ***