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Living with Arthritis: Diminishing the Pain
When pain in my leg, localized in my knee, was diagnosed by my MD as Osteoarthritis, I was not too surprised. I was only 54, which seemed a little young, but it is known that arthritis is genetic and several of my family members had also had the ailment as part of their lives.
Saying No to Pharmaceuticals
So my doctor recommended a prescription only medication used to virtually eliminate the pain and debilitating effects of arthritis. She gave me a free sample to try before I committed to a regular regime. Well, it did help somewhat but to me it wasn’t all that different from ibuprofen. Then I discovered the price…$750 for a 3 month supply. I was floored. I know that this might not be considered too pricey compared to other medications, but it was well beyond by means and arthritis is not a life threatening illness. It does however affect “quality of Life”. So I made the decision to pursue other avenues of healing.
This article deals with remedies for Osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis. Arthritis means, simply, inflammation in one or more of the joints. Since it is a chronic condition, in addition to inflammation the cartilage between the joints breaks down. It is amazing to think that there are over 100 different types of arthritis. However, generally people are most familiar with the two most common forms: Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid. Over 27 million Americans have Osteoarthritis, and 1.3 million have Rheumatoid Arthritis. (Arthritis Foundation, 2015)
Many temporary measures can be utilized to diminish the effects of arthritis:
• Ibuprofen-a non-prescription, readily available medicine that not only relieves pain, but helps to reduce inflammation, Very helpful for arthritis sufferers, but overuse may cause stomach damage.
• Topical ointments and rubs (for example Ben Gay) can provide pain relief for minor aches.
• Ice packs, used regularly, can help diminish swelling.
• Regular exercise that is low impact on the joints, swimming is an excellent choice and also yoga.
• Weight control: carrying extra weight can of course burden several of the major joints.
Looking at these diagrams showing how arthritis affects the joints it makes one realize how arthritis can be so painful. Sometimes Osteoarthritis progresses to the point that the cartilage between the joints breaks down and more drastic measures need to be taken to not only alleviate pain but to stop the disease from have a debilitating affect.
Since I developed a limp, and the pain in my leg was pretty much a daily occurrence, I realized I had to take further steps. Through the grapevine, and strong recommendations from friends, I found a very good orthopedist. After meeting with him and discussing several options, I first decided to try cortisone shots. The first shot of cortisone worked very well and I was joyously pain-free for about 5 months. When pain returned, I went pack for another cortisone shot, but this one barely lasted a month. Cortisone shots are helpful, but not good for long term because they can eventually weaken your bones by inhibiting the absorption of calcium.
I then proceeded to learn about the option of gel injections directly into the joint. This is used to replace lost cartilage. Depending on the individual, this therapy can have wonderful results lasting anywhere from 6 months to 2 years. I went ahead and made the appointment. Then, I started to have second thoughts about the procedure and my long term goals and working with this condition. When I had an eye-opening discussion with both my orthopedist and the Physician’s Assistant they made me realize that you will know when you are ready to try surgery when your “quality of life” is affected by your current condition. That helped me take a good hard look at how it was affecting my life and my lack of mobility; I then took the next step to have Total Knee Replacement. When I asked my doctor if I was postponing the inevitable (surgery) he gently referred to my X-rays and then said yes. No time like the present, I scheduled the surgery as soon as I could.
Total Knee Replacement
Now don’t get me wrong…I did not “jump” right into the decision, it took quite a bit of agonizing and even right up to the day of surgery…I was very frightened. Through many reassurances, and the realization that this is a very common procedure…I survived with flying colors. As with many surgeries, the surgery itself went well, it is the recovery afterwards that it the long hard climb. As of this writing, I am in the midst of 6 to 8 weeks of Physical Therapy.
I am currently working on achieving the sought after Range of Motion.
I am making great progress and I feel confident that I made the right decision to drastically improve my mobility and diminish my pain. Yet, I was not anticipating the amount of pain involved. I always thought I had a high tolerance for pain and perhaps I do, but what is difficult is lasting pain over a series of weeks. Nevertheless, in the long run I am optimistic that it will be worth the challenge.
It is important to remember when dealing with arthritis that you don’t “cure” arthritis you manage it. Looking at it this way helps to make it more bearable and not as overwhelming. Any strides that are achieved, really make you feel more in control of your own well being, instead of silently suffering. It is also comforting to know that you are not alone.
2) Arthritis- How to stay Active and Relieve your Pain.
Barbara Stokes & Antoine Helewa
3) Yoga for Arthritis-Loren Fisherman
4) Illinois Bone and Joint Institute (Orthopedic Specialists)
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