Diagnosed RA & Fibro ~ Don’t Give Up!

Advice from a Chronic Pain Warrior

When we receive severe diagnoses, it can shake us to the depths of our souls. And many times, we don’t hear anything the doctor says after that. The last thing you need to do is sit down and give up. Let’s review a few things our doctors may or may not have expressed to you at that initial appointment. These are some things I neglected to do and have learned the hard way about it.

Advise from a pain warrior Don't Give Up.
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shingles vaccine

Rheumatoid Arthritis and the Shingles Vaccine

It started with tenderness around my elbow. I was a bit concerned because allergic reactions tend to start at the elbow for me. But I couldn’t figure out what was different in my life. About a week later, little blisters broke out, and then, oh the itching and pain! Y’all, you do not want to experience this. Did I somehow contact poison oak when they were removing trees from our backyard?

Finally, I gave in and contacted my doctor.

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5 Steps Toward Beginning a Great Day

For those of us that suffer from the effects of chronic pain, it is often difficult to get going in the morning. I am often tempted to lay in the bed and let the day pass me by. But I am learning how to get my day started on the right foot. Let me share 5 steps toward beginning a great day. I preface this to say that I totally understand that some days are worse than others and I only encourage you to try.

S – T – R – E – T – C – H and B – R – E – A – T – H – E

I am thankful for a good stretch. When I first was dealt this terrible pain, I could not move, up or down, roll over, sit up, you name it. Any movement at all caused a debilitating contraction of pain across my lower back. So there was no stretching going on here. But now that I have learned to manage my pain, I am grateful for every stretch. I do several stretches right from the bed and others throughout the day. Identify your points of pain and look up some gentle stretches that will help release stiffness. If you ignore this, you may end up completely tight and unable to move. Here’s a place to start…

Exercises to Reduce Chronic Pain

MEDITATE

This begins right where we left off. I’m not much of a Yoga fan, but I do take in some good deep breaths every morning. I spend some time listing things that I am grateful for. You may be in a lot of pain or there may be a lot of problems in your life, but there is always something we can be grateful for. Get a small notebook and start a gratitude list. Then if you have a particularly bad morning, you can go back and remind yourself of all the good things in your life.

I then spend a little time reading and meditating on the Holy Scriptures. I start with Proverbs. There are 31 chapters. One for every day of the month. You might relate to how things haven’t changed much over the centuries. Secondly, I turn to the Psalms. It was suggested to me once that I should read a Psalm every day. Honestly, it’s a great idea. I am always encouraged because they often start out with the trouble and the psalmist will end up praising God. Now that is a great way to get the day going!

[Actually, now I’m reading 5 Psalms. It only takes a few moments. I start with the day of the month. ie today is the 16th, so I read Psalm 16. Then I add 30 and read Psalm 46, then 76, then 106, then 136. This seems to add some variety to the reading. The only time I switch it up is that I save Psalm 119 for the 31st day of the month. This Psalm is long, so I give it its own day.]

There are plenty of great apps available for this time of reading if you prefer something else.

First Five – an awesome app offered by Proverbs 31. As it indicates, It only takes 5 minutes to read.

BGEA – You can’t go wrong with Billy Graham’s devotions!

Check out some other possibilities here.

HYDRATE

Get started with your hydration goal by downing 2 8-ounce glasses of water right off the bat. I take my medications with the first one with apple cider vinegar; the second, with your medications. Why Apple Cider Vinegar? Because it has so many benefits including:

  • stabilizes blood sugar levels
  • increases body metabolism
  • decreases your appetite
  • improves digestion
  • Keeps osteoporosis at bay
  • constitipation relief
  • helps overcome fatigue
  • reduces inflammation
  • detoxifies your liver
  • read here for more

Start small with the vinegar, maybe just a capful. Add a squeeze of lemon juice or even a bit of liquid stevia if you can’t deal with the taste. It is definitely an acquired taste. And do this first before your glass of clear water so that you rinse the acid from your teeth.

MAKE YOUR BED

5 steps toward a great day
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Seriously, take a couple of minutes and make your bed. It will help you sleep better at night and you will be more rested tomorrow. It adds to your stretching routine as well. Another note: When it the last time you wash your bedsheets? Once a week is advised to remove germs and dirt.

BREAK A SWEAT

It only takes ten minutes to get your heart rate up and challenged. Dr. Livinggood [yep, his real name], suggests ten minutes of Tabata. This is a high-intensity exercise, but high-intensity is relative. You do what you can do. Great for your heart! Here are the videos I use to help me get going without going to the gym…

Silver Sneakers for those on Medicare

Faithful FInishlines – {affiliate} a great place to get lots of weight loss help. Here’s a free 5-day challenge

Actually, just go to YouTube and type in Tabata.

Of course, you could just take a brisk walk.

CONCLUSION

All this takes less than an hour and you will be ready for a great day!

Mandy

BONUS

– If you are married, you might like to add this to your morning routine! – Make Love To Your Spouse!

swollen knees

Diagnosis Knees – Osteoarthritis or RA

more diagnoses knees
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Once I finally had a diagnosis, I was able to get on a regimen of Savella. This relieved the majority of my pain. At least I was able to move about. We started working on reducing my 40mg of prednisone down to a more acceptable level. This was no easy feat. The pain would return with just a slight decrease. If I remember, we had to reduce by 5 mg, and then later only 1 mg. (I only recently was able to get completely off the usage of prednisone. It took me ten years!)

It’s Off to the Orthopedic Surgeon

But it only took a few months for my knees to begin to swell and be painful. So, we headed to Hughston Clinic. After x-rays and MRIs, the doctor determined that I had a torn meniscus. So we scheduled surgery. How wonderful that Dr. Collins is a Christian. By his request, he had prayer with me before we went into the OR. His staff is amazing. They checked on me several times after the surgery. I highly recommend Hughston Clinic if you live in SW Georgia.

The surgery went well, he was able to repair damage and clean out a lot of arthritis. He took pictures that showed a lot of gnarly mess. So when we met with him again, he said he would send me back to Mayo Clinic because he wasn’t certain that it was just osteoarthritis.

Back to Mayo Clinic

Already established at Mayo, it wasn’t as difficult to get an appointment. I saw my rheumatologist. He looked at the pictures and said, “This is severe osteoarthritis”. OK. No Surprise here. I was very accident-prone on the dairy farm. As a child, I was always incurring stupid injuries that weren’t too severe. I figured then that one day, I would have plenty of arthritis.

While he felt the diagnosis for knees was osteoarthritis, he decided to run the tests for rheumatoid arthritis again. Low and behold, this time it came back as R.A. We had caught it early so I was able to take Methotrexate rather than a biologic.

Why Didn’t It Show Up Before?

Apparently, the prednisone was masking the RA. I had been concerned this would be a problem all along. The steroid helped me “feel” pretty darn good, But in fact, steroids are an anti-inflammatory drug. So the numbers in the blood work came back good. I figured the steroids caused my numbers to be all over the place when I was tested back home.

swollen knees - steroids hide the real problem
photos from pixabay-Bolova59

The Methotrexate has kept the RA pretty much under control these 10 years. Osteoarthritis of the knees continues to be aggravating on a daily basis. Other fibromyalgia pains and other issues keep popping up now (10 years later). So, we are considering other medication options.

This brings us up to the Spring of 2013. Stay tuned for another addition to Mandy’s Journey with Pain or click here to see what you may have missed.

-Mandy

rheumatoid arthritis

The Difference Between Osteo and Rheumatoid Arthritis?

We have all heard about “old Arthur” that issue where your joints are hurting and stiff. It keeps you from exercise and even doing much walking. But did you know there are over 100 types of arthritis? Wow! And I’ve only really heard of three of them.

Did you know there are over 100 types of arthritis? #osteoarthritis #rheumatoidarthritis Click To Tweet

So anyway, Let’s talk about the two that I have: Osteoarthritis (OA) and Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA).

OsteoArthritis (OA)

OA is the most common type of arthritis. It’s what your grandparents probably have. Over 30 million adults struggle with OA. It’s caused by wear and tear and is a degenerative type of arthritis. OA attacks the cartilage at the end of your bones.

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)

On the other hand, RA is an autoimmune, inflammatory, systemic disease. Your immune system attacks healthy cells by “accident”, resulting in inflammation, swelling, and pain. It attacks mainly small joints such as fingers, wrists, and knee joints. As time goes by it also affects the heart, lungs, and eyes.

https://www.bing.com/th?id=ArNFbtkWsyVl2vw1808x1150&w=344&h=218&c=7&rs=1&qlt=80&cdv=1&dpr=1.5&pid=16.1

The effect of RA on your joints is variable. The inflammation and pain spikes and lolls from week to week, or even from day-to-day. One day you can jump right out of bed, but the next day you can hardly move. Due to its unpredictability, it is hard to understand. Many times family and friends can’t understand and may easily accuse you of making it up. Thus, we call it an invisible disease.

There is no cure for RA. Many supplements have made their hype about resolving the problem but to no avail. Certainly, exercise is helpful for managing RA. And there are anti-inflammatory diets that are helpful. But none of this can cure the disease.

Fatigue and morning stiffness are daunting issues for the patient. Even with treatment, these problems are persistent.

Early detection is important. Treatment can slow the progression of pain and inflammation and even deformation of the joints and prolong the need to retire early or apply for disability.

There is no single test for an RA diagnosis. Doctors consider symptoms such as joint swelling and morning stiffness. Blood tests detect rheumatoid factor and anti-citrullinated protein antibodies, which are markers for systemic inflammation. X-ray, ultrasound, and MRI scans can also help determine joint health.

As the disease progresses, symptoms often spread to the wrists, knees, ankles, elbows, hips and shoulders. In most cases, symptoms occur in the same joints on both sides of your body.

About 40 percent of the people who have rheumatoid arthritis also experience signs and symptoms that don’t involve the joints. Rheumatoid arthritis can affect many nonjoint structures, including:

  • Skin
  • Eyes
  • Lungs
  • Heart
  • Kidneys
  • Salivary glands
  • Nerve tissue
  • Bone marrow
  • Blood vessels

My Symptoms

I was diagnosed in 2013 with RA though we are certain I was suffering long before this. When chronic pain first became obvious to me, I was placed on steroids. These steroids masked the RA, making my blood lad markers normal. When we got my fibromyalgia under control, my knees began to swell. So my rheumatologist checked my blood work again. Sure enough, they were high.

From the list above, I have already been experiencing Chronic Dry Eye and Nerve tissue issues. This summer, I began having heart and bone marrow issues even though my blood markers are good.

Sources

https://www.everydayhealth.com/rheumatoid-arthritis/rheumatoid-arthritis-confusing

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/rheumatoid-arthritis/symptoms-causes/syc-20353648