Recently, I have been diagnosed with arthritis, for the third time. This time in my right hand. So now I have mild arthritis in my lower back, my neck, and my hand. This sounds horrible to me and I’m not quite sure what to think. When I recently discussed my hand pain with my doctor, she initially suggested a shot for the pain. And x-rays. My response: x-rays, yes, shot, no.
Fortunately, and this is thanks to my doctor who normally has a very natural approach to health issues, I have been seeing a physical therapist for my neck and back. When I mentioned my hand to my PT she recommended their hand therapist. After x-rays and a referral, I begin my next phase of arthritis treatment.
I have struggled with lower back pain for years. A year or two ago my doctor had recommended I try a yoga therapist. I did go and visit her, and honestly I believe she was on to something. But nothing quite connected with me on her approach.
I continued and continued to voice my frustration, and last year my doctor recommended an osteopathic doctor. I finally went to see her, and she is the one who recommended additional x-rays (of my neck), and finally a physical therapist.
For me, this is life changing. I found a wonderful PT. At first I was not sure of her approach. I expected some major massage and working of the bones and muscles. Some sort of magical fix. Don’t we always?
But no. Her feedback was that I need to retrain muscles to help support my bones to help alleviate pain (this is in line with the yoga therapist, in retrospect). OK. That makes sense. Regular, somewhat tedious exercises to retrain my body.
Another technique she used on my neck was “dry needling”. Similar to acupuncture, but applied specifically to the muscles, and then treated with a slight electric pulse. I found this quite fascinating! The goal was to stimulate and “wake up” my neck muscle.
After about a dozen visits, and a continued exercise regimen, I have experienced very positive results. Specifically in my neck. Although the pain is still there, I do not notice it as much, and I don’t think about it like I used to. I am doing the exercises which help minimize back and neck pain, made changes in how I sit and arrange my desk, and I am trying to be patient. I will also utilize weight training at the gym to focus on neck and shoulder muscles. She believes I will continue to feel some improvements over coming months.
So now my hand. This approach has just started. However, similar to my neck and back, my hand therapist believes I need to rework my hand muscles, and change my grip. I am encouraged and determined. Can changing how you move and reworking muscles create positive results? I think so. I just didn’t know how to do it.
But seriously, what really is arthritis? And why do I have it?
According to the Arthritis Foundation website, there are over 100 different types of arthritis! Arthritis is a term used to refer to joint pain or joint disease. According to their site:
People of all ages, sexes and races can and do have arthritis, and it is the leading cause of disability in America. More than 50 million adults and 300,000 children have some type of arthritis. It is most common among women and occurs more frequently as people get older.
The more I learn, the more it reinforces the fact that the thing that creates pain, movement, is the best treatment. However, I continue to learn that the correct movement is important. And the incorrect movements may actually cause and worsen arthritis. Strong muscles to support the joints, strong balancing skills to prevent falls, regular exercise to keep joints limber, and low weight all contribute to healthy maintenance and a comfortable lifestyle. It is also important to consider diet, because foods that help decrease inflammation of the joints can also help decreases pain.
Although arthritis at my age is quite normal, my diagnosis is mild. This does surprise me because at times it doesn’t feel mild. I can live with what I have right now. But I feel for those with more severe arthritis. It hurts. And I am determined to treat the problem, not the symptoms. I want to understand what I am dealing with. I don’t want to ignore it and hope it goes away (it won’t).
And the other piece I am dealing with is this: I am worth it. I don’t need to feel old or “high maintenance”. I have been honest with my boss. I am doing my best to work around my work and life schedule. But I am making the time, and the money, to learn how to improve my abilities to “move” through life.
Apparently there is no easy fix. But I am going to continue to ask, look, read, and try ideas that I find. Too many times the solutions offered are to take a pill or a shot, make excuses, and sit back and allow ourselves to deteriorate.
Nope. Not me. I may make slow progress, but I will not give up the fight.
Too many adventures to explore along the way that I don’t want to miss.