Rheumatoid Arthritis, Pain and Prescription Medications. I

The doctor’s diagnosis, still having an affect on my psyche, left me with more questions than answers. Here’s what it’s like to have rheumatoid arthritis, and how to regain control of your life.

There were so many visits to the doctors office, and so many lab tests that my head was spinning with confusion. And with the winter months quickly approaching, I started to notice an increase in the joint pain.

I remember as a child, my Grandmother commenting on how she could tell when a storm was about to approach, or when there would be a sudden drop in temperature that she would experience a drastic increase in her discomfort.

I wondered, as I grew older, if these remarks were just old wives tales or could my grandmother’s body actually tell her of changing weather patterns. Now, after personally experiencing arthritis, I can understand what my grandmother went through. I can also say without a doubt, that varying degrees of atmospheric pressure play a major role in the symptoms of arthritis.

After weeks of evaluations and tests my doctor prescribed, Prednisone, a hormone used for the treatment of severe inflammation. It was prescribed to me as a medication to help in the reduction of my pain. At the time, my doctor didn’t explain the side effects that might be associated with such a powerful drug as Prednisone, so you could image my surprise, when after the first month I had gained quite a bit of weight. This was mostly due to the swelling this medication induces.

The weight nonetheless made me very uncomfortable and not very happy. For the first time in my life I was experiencing a weight problem and felt as though I should be doing something about it.

Without jeopardizing my treatment, a friend and I joined a neighborhood Health Spa. After discussing potential health risks with my doctor, husband and several close friends, I decided to go for it. The next day, very excited about the program, we signed up and started immediately. The facility had all the latest equipment, highly trained professionals who conducted various classes that I found very beneficial. Plus they also had a multitude of activities that aided me in my quest for pain relief.

My friend and I went to the health club for weeks, working out religiously, almost daily. I have to admit that in the first stages of our workout I found it to be very difficult and much more painful than I expected. Combined with learning how to use the machines and getting into a routine, I was attempting to move joints and muscles that had become stiff and inflamed for quite sometime.

I started out slowly; working my way up from small, light weights to heavier and more strenuous weights as weeks went by. It was important for me to monitor the amount of pressure applied to the joints and muscles so I wouldn’t cause any extensive damage. We participated in floor activities as well as many of the aerobic and pool exercises. Afterwards, the whirlpools always offered a nice way to relax and smooth out the aches of the day.

As months went by, I started noticing the results of my hard work and committed training.

Once again, I started regaining strength and stamina, feeling better, physically, as well as mentally.

My weight dropped and my self-esteem began to rise. That bloated feeling I had experienced for so long from the medication, magically disappeared. This did wonders for my mental attitude, but I noticed the biggest difference physically. It became much easier to walk, get in and out of chairs and to function efficiently in my daily activities.

In the meantime, my doctor had replaced my Prednisone with a new drug called Penicillamine. It was much stronger than the medication I was taking currently. Penicillamine worked like a charm, eventually putting my arthritis into remission. With this new drug, most of my pain had disappeared, but like the Prednisone before it, Penicillamine also had its side effects I wasn’t aware of.

When I first started taking the medication I noticed a change in the taste of my food. It became bland and flavorless, at the time I didn’t associate this condition with the new medication and I figured whatever it was happening would be temporary. The following week I went to Kansas for my sons wedding. It was a beautiful wedding, but at the reception I remember commenting about the steak being served having no flavor. I actually felt disappointed for my son, because I thought the chef preparing the food just wasn’t a good cook. Once again, associating my lack of taste buds with the new medication never occurred to me.

…to be continued

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