Saturday, June 7, 2008

Living with arthritis

One of the reasons I came to the realization that I can't have a desk job is because I was diagnosed with arthritis about five months ago. Yeah, I figured I shouldn't be spending hours on the computer every day, because I was in pain, but then in January, my neck locked up and I found myself at the doctor's office. I couldn't turn my head from side to side, so after a series of x-rays, a diagnosis was made that I had bony changes in my neck -- arthritis.

I resisted the idea of taking drugs, but being unable to turn my head from side to side, as well as having horrible headaches, I finally relented. For awhile I was taking seven pills a day, but after a few changes, we wound up with an anti-inflammatory (2X daily) and a muscle relaxer that I could take up to three times a day, but I tried to only do two. The physical therapist convinced me that I wasn't going to make much progress in physical therapy if I didn't take the medication to get the swelling down and to get the muscles relaxed. So, I had nine weeks of physical therapy, and finally I had some decent mobility in my neck. I was released from physical therapy with daily stretching exercises and a home traction unit. The physical therapist told me that part of my problem was ridiculously weak muscles in my upper back.

He was actually thrilled when I told him that I live on a farm and have started doing more chores. When I was in grad school, I pretty much let the girls take over all my chores, not realizing that I was causing myself to have some problems as a result. The physical therapist gave me ideas on how to gradually increase my strength using water buckets and other farm chores as "therapy."

After the semester was done, I gradually weaned myself off all the arthritis drugs, and I've been feeling so much better. I'm stiff in the morning, but once I do my stretches and use the traction unit, I'm ready to take on anything. Another thing I've noticed is that I am in a much better mood when I spend the whole day working outside with the animals or in the barn or doing something physical.

Then two days ago, Katherine and I spent the whole day in town at Margaret's new shop. I foolishly spent six hours knitting. I should have known how bad that would be for me. I was making a conscious effort to stretch my neck regularly, but that was obviously not good enough. Now, I've been in terrible pain for two days, desperately trying to not start taking the drugs again, but remembering what the physical therapist said -- maybe I should take them for a few days to get the swelling down and get the muscles relaxed again?

I've discovered so many benefits to living out here -- so many more benefits than I ever thought existed. Humans weren't made for sitting around. I think it's funny that when we lived in the suburbs, I'd drive my car to a gym to lift weights that were meaningless, bike to nowhere or walk to nowhere, staring at nothing but exercise equipment and other people going nowhere. It's more meaningful, more fun, and more interesting to carry water buckets or walk around 32 acres of wooded pasture land. And I think it's probably more beneficial to me, the animals, and the environment.
Our newest addition! Butterfly gave birth to this beautiful little girl two days ago!


Nancy K. said...

I'm sorry to hear of the troubles you're having with arthritis. I get flare ups on occasion but for the most part, have been pretty lucky.

Butterfly and her doeling are TOO precious!!!

Anonymous said...

It is amazing the theraputic devices that we get to bring home to make our lives less painful. I have a CPAP machine to help me sleep because of sleep apnea. Your home traction unit sounds like it is helping you, but what exactly is it?

Deborah said...

My home traction unit is very similar to the traction machine I used at the hospital when I was having physical therapy. I lay down with my head in this thing, and it has a pump that looks a lot like a bicycle pump with a pressure gauge on it, which I just pump up, and it stretches my neck and then holds it. It's not electric, which I found interesting, but then there is no timer on it, so I just hold it as long as is comfortable and then release it. At the hospital it held for 20 seconds, released for 10 seconds. I think I do something similar for about 10-15 minutes. The best part is that I can do it at home. It cost $650, but I'm lucky insurance covered it. The physical therapist said there is one that you fill up with water and hang over your door, which only costs about $100. I'm glad I have good insurance! I don't think I'd use it as often if it weren't so convenient and easy to use.

The most important thing for me is to stay active. I have noticed that my muscles are not nearly as tight now that I'm not spending so many hours at a computer every day.

Glenda said...

We take turmeric for swelling of arthritis. I use the capsule form because drinking or eating it makes everything yellow. Yep I do daily neck stretches. Lots of good water helps the latic acid that seems to form in my shoulder blades. The first time I lack the water my shoulder blade reminds me.Just a suggestion.

Deborah Niemann said...

I had heard about turmeric and went through a whole bottle of the capsules. They didn't really seem to help so I didn't buy more.


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