Rheumatoid Arthritis and Helpful Tips to Relieve the Pain (Guest Post)

 

RA article

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is a chronic autoimmune disease that is characterized by inflammation of the joints that causes pain, stiffness, swelling and decreased function that may interfere with the ability to perform everyday activities.

Because RA is a chronic condition, treatment often incorporates various pain management techniques.

Flare-Ups

Some RA patients are prone to worsened symptoms at particular times of the day, but flare-ups can occur out of the blue. Swelling and pain are usually worse after resting, which is why many RA patients experience greater stiffness in their joints in the morning. Trying something as simple as starting the day with a hot shower or bath can loosen up joints for the day.

Patients report that moist heating pads, available at most pharmacies, are particularly helpful in relieving RA pain. Many keep these on hand to be ready for painful flare-ups. Paraffin wax or soaking tubs for the hands and feet are relatively inexpensive and also have been successful in relieving joint pain.

When managing chronic pain, mental exercises have proven to be immensely effective. Patients can try meditation, controlled breathing and relaxation exercises. Creative outlets also can help, like listening to music or repeating a mantra. Keeping a positive attitude and practicing positive self-talk can be very effective in reducing pain.

Preserving Healthy Joints

Preserving joints with a supportive, healthy lifestyle is equally important. Extra body weight increases pressure on the joints, and fatty tissue may increase inflammation. Losing extra weight and eating an anti-inflammatory diet can help.

Exercising and stretching were once thought to worsen pain, but overwhelming evidence now suggests they are critical to arthritis management. Patients should not exercise when experiencing pain, and should start slowly with low-impact exercises like cycling, swimming or yoga.

Small modifications to everyday activities can help preserve healthy joints and keep patients pain-free. Using ergonomic tools and maybe even using a cane—which can take up to 20 percent of body weight off of hips, knees and ankles—also can help.

Joint Replacement

RA is not only chronic; it is also a disease that gets progressively worse over time. Even with effective management, weight-bearing joints like the knees and hips may require replacement surgery in the future.

It is important that patients discuss the safest prosthetic joint options with their doctor to avoid painful complications like those associated with defective metal-on-metal hip implants. Tens of thousands of patients who received problematic implants from DePuy Orthopaedics and Stryker Orthopaedics are left to deal with severe pain and the likelihood of revision surgery just a few years after their original surgery.

Linda Grayling is a writer for Drugwatch.com. She enjoys keeping up with the latest news in the medical field.

Chronic Illness and the Loss of Identity

identity

Do you ever miss the person you used to be prior to your diagnosis? Sometimes, when I look in the mirror, I see someone else and someone I am not sure I recognize. Some days, that makes me sad because I am still mourning the person I once was and on other days, I am content with who I have become. 

Interrupted

Chronic illness has an overwhelming effect on a person’s life and the grief that comes as a response to the loss of identity is not unusual. Our lives become interrupted by the disease and we start to see psychological changes that are a normal part of dealing with chronic illness. Because illness is so unpredictable, it forces us to constantly change our plans and we never know how things will work out. We start to lose control of things we once controlled like our personal identities and our independence and with that comes a loss of self-esteem. 

Many have to change jobs, or leave them all together, and we lose financial security and status. We all have to change our lifestyles in order to adapt to our conditions. Some have to let go of hopes and dreams and we are constantly wondering what we will lose next. Certain roles in our lives start to change such as family, work, and social life and that involves adjustment – not just for us but for others in our lives. Our friends, family members and partners all start to feel uneasy about the unwanted adjustments to their own lives because our illnesses affect their lives as well. What is worse is that if these issues do not work themselves out, we are set for more losses that further add to our loss of self-esteem and loss of identity. 

Before we got sick

The biggest transition is the loss of identity that we had before we got sick. Here are we changing everything about the way we once defined about ourselves and the way we used to interact with the rest of the world. It can be really difficult to deal with because feeling mentally well means feeling good about yourself. To add injury to insult, we start to lose once supportive relationships that aren’t standing the test of chronic illness. 

If you suffer from a condition that is invisible to the rest of the world, you will not always receive validation or support from those you expected to receive it from and you start to feel angry and frustrated. This is a time when you need love, compassion, sympathy and support and what you are met with is skepticism, disbelief and anger. You start to feel angry, hopeless, helpless, resentful, damaged and depressed. Coping is overwhelming and your new identity isn’t as helpful as your old one.

Prevailing  

Is there is a simple answer to prevail? No, but prevailing takes time and patience and learning to accept your new identity and how to work with it. Find support with those who understand your struggles. Communicate your feelings to your loved ones about your loss of identity and focus on not feeling angry and resentful simply because they don’t understand. Educate yourself about your condition and take care of yourself the way you would a small child with love, kindness, pampering and nurturing. It is okay to grieve but don’t focus too much on your loss of self-worth and instead, focus on who you can become. Make peace with your illness and listen to your body. Last, let go of society’s expectations and the expectations of others you are better without in your life.

 The person I used to be is a memory

Every day, I find old memories of the person I once was. Sometimes, I miss her but I have moved on. I am not saying that I don’t grieve for that person because loss of identity isn’t something we easily get over. I have, however, learned to accept the person that I am now and the person that I am now has limitations and a breaking point. The person I used to be didn’t have limitations or a breaking point but having unlimited pity parties aren’t going to bring the old me back.

Adapting and Adjusting  

Living with chronic illness isn’t easy but it is a lifelong process that requires us to keep adopting and adjusting every day and with every situation. Illness is unpredictable, intrusive, and interfering and you have to learn to expect the unexpected at any given moment. You will learn that there will be painful periods and periods of improvement and you have to be able to move back and forth from acceptance to adjustment. It is a slow process but we have to learn to let go of the past and accept the people we have become and with time and patience, we eventually master acceptance and adjustment.

Parenting with Chronic Illness is no cakewalk

mom with kidsAs you know, chronic diseases, like rheumatoid arthritis (RA) are progressive, meaning they will get worse over time. As a parent with a chronic disease, do you wonder if it prevents you from being the kind of parent you want to be?

From experience, I can tell you that raising kids while struggling with RA is no cakewalk. Pain, fatigue and stiffness are still my daily realities and they make parenting a challenge.

As you know, being a parent means you draw attention away from yourself and you give it to your children because they need you. That can be especially difficult when you are dealing with chronic pain, disease symptoms and fatigue. Further, you are not the only one who suffers from the effects of your disease. Children whose parents living with a chronic illness and/or chronic pain condition have many questions about the effects of chronic and while this can be difficult, it is important for parents to ease their children’s fears about chronic illness and pain.

I am mother to a four year old and a teen. My four year old understands that mommy hurts and I find that on the days I am dealing with high levels of pain, he responds by acting act. My thirteen year old has questions about the future and whether things will get worse for me. I respond by telling them that I will be do everything I can so that I don’t get worse. He worries about schedules and routines and often asks how he can help. He wants to know who will care for his brother and him and he wants to know that someone will. What I have learned is that my honesty holds me credibility than telling him that “I don’t know” or that “I will be better tomorrow” when that may not be true.

I know that as my kids get older and my RA worsens their questions will change and I don’t know what my responses will be. I just know that life for us isn’t normal or easy because I am not healthy. What I do know is that my children understand empathy a lot more than their peers do. I also know that as they get older they will learn to deal with life’s obstacles with the lessons we have learned as a family dealing with effects of RA on our lives. For now, I try to offer than normalcy as often and as best as I can.

The best any parent living with chronic illness can offer to their children is to share their good days and good moments and prepare them for when bad days arise. It is also important to stay on top of your children’s moods and behaviors because they are just as affected as you are emotionally. However, their responses will be different than ours.

So, parenting with chronic illness can be hard but the good news is that new medicines for treating autoimmune diseases can halt joint destruction and reduce the chances of disability significantly. Moreover, early and aggressive treatment can improve the quality of life for parents with chronic disease and hopefully help them to  avoid disability.