Coffee on the knee

March 3, 2011 at 9:59 pm | Posted in arthrits, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, joint pai, Me, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) | Leave a comment
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We’re a nervy (or at least reticent) bunch when it comes to telling friends and colleagues about our RA, and often for very good reason! There’s probably a post born every minute about this. Two good recent ones are from Squirrel and Laurie at ‘Frozen Woman’. I suppose it’s partly that we’ve all had bad reactions from someone, somewhere at some point, and it’s once bitten, twice shy, but also, as Squirrel mentioned in her post, that it’s really hard to get people to understand that you can be fine one minute and flaring the next … and then fine again soon after, if you’re lucky.

What one doesn’t often hear is what a good laugh it can be trying to explain things to folks wot don’t know.

Well today I had to explain to the ‘temp boss’ (‘the boss’, who knows all about the whole RA thing, being on maternity leave) that she was on permanent coffee duty today because I couldn’t get up and down the stairs terribly easily. Now I was probably muttering a bit because this whole RA thing shouldn’t make me feel embarrassed, but it does, and I was feeling guilty (another dumb and pointless emotion that shouldn’t be related to being ill!) about not being able to get my share of coffees, and temp boss’s hearing isn’t as acute as it might be, and she was probably only half listening because her mind was on getting coffees, but anyway, somehow my saying, ‘I won’t be able to get the coffees today because I’ve got a bad knee’ followed by an attempted explanation of flaring etc. got translated in her mind as ‘I can’t drink coffee today because I’ve got a bad knee’ and the pair of us ended up in fits of giggles at her vision of all this coffee pooling somehow in my knee and causing it to swell up.

Well, laughter is definitely therapeutic, so for once telling a colleague about RA turned out to be more therapeutic than painful! I think the pair of us will be referring to any future knee flares as ‘coffee on the knee’ from now on!

Oral Prednisolone

March 3, 2011 at 12:50 pm | Posted in arthrits, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, joint pai, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) | 4 Comments
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I’ve read a lot on the net about oral prednisolone and generally I’ve thought, ‘Hmm, glad I don’t need any of that then …’

Me and my big mouth …

Anyway, here’s why. I woke up Tuesday morning and my left knee, which is where I had the major, major, MAJOR problems in 2008 but which has been relatively OK since, was stiff … I mean REALLY stiff, as in couldn’t straighten, couldn’t bend. Oh well … it didn’t last long. It stayed a bit stiff until about lunchtime and then wore off.  It didn’t hurt at all so I decided not to worry about it. ‘One of those things,’ I said to myself, ‘one of those little unpredictable joys of R.A. No doubt that’s the last I’ll hear from that knee for a year or two.’

WRONG! Woke up yesterday morning and the knee was really stiff again, but instead of wearing of by lunchtime it didn’t wear off all day! It still didn’t hurt so I thought, ‘Oh well, maybe it’ll be OK tomorrow.’

You guessed it – this morning it was really stiff again and it hurt (just a bit, but it did hurt). It also felt as though someone had strapped a great big lead weight around it, which says ‘swollen’ to me, although it’s not actually noticeably hot or inflamed.  So I gave in and took the doctor lottery – i.e. ‘same day appointment with a member of the same day team. We can’t tell you who you’ll be seeing and it may be a doctor or a nurse.’

Well it was obviously my lucky day because I saw Dr. Locum Eye-Candy, and apart from being eye-candy he also seemed pretty switched on and sensible and (mostly) listened to what I had to say. OK, so he got slightly confused and when I’d said, ‘This started on Tuesday’ that somehow got translated in his brain to, ‘This is an ongoing problem I’ve had for months’ – but hey, we got that straightened out pretty quickly, so I’ll let him off! (Also perhaps I got a little confused. He was GORGEOUS – made it hard to concentrate on why I was there … Hmm, hubby will proofread this for me later. Perhaps I should take it out … nah … )

So here I am about to experience my first ever oral prednisolone – oh lucky me !

On the bright side, I am taking minimal quantities and assuming it works I will only be on it for three days, so I don’t anticipate any problems. In fact I anticipate a miraculous cure. Let’s hope I’m right. I don’t always hate it when my predictions come true!

Also, on the really, really, really sunny side, IT’S NOT AN INJECTION INTO THE JOINT! (Or indeed an injection into the bum, which is always mildly embarrassing, and would have been ever more so if Dr. Locum Eye-Candy had been giving it to me!)

 

Throwing thyroid into the mix

June 15, 2010 at 9:10 pm | Posted in Me, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) | 5 Comments
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I went for monthly MTX blood tests today and remembered to ask if the thyroid results were normal – I’d assumed they were, since no one at the surgery had bothered to contact me. They weren’t.

Having said that, they weren’t all that abnormal either, so what are we doing about it? In their case nothing as yet, in my case getting rather confused …and cold …and tired … and achy … but mostly just confused. Until I went in and asked for the results I thought a thyroid test was just that, one test, one answer – OK, not OK, whatever. But no … it turns out there’s a test for thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) which is produced by the pituitary gland and stimulates thyroxine production from the thyroid gland. Then there’s tests for the two types of hormone the thyroid gland itself produces, thyroxine (T4) and the other one whose name I can’t remember (T3). Counter-intuitively, if you have lots of TSH sloshing about it means your thyroid might be UNDER-active, because you have to produce a lot of TSH to get the thyroid to do anything at all. If you have loads of T3 and/or T4 (produced by the thyroid gland itself) then you obviously have an overactive thyroid as the thyroid is producing loads of the stuff. If you have very little then clearly you have an under-active thyroid.

Symptoms of the latter include feeling cold when it isn’t (box ticked), weight gain or difficulty in losing weight (box ticked), muscle aches (box ticked), abnormal menstrual cycles (oh yeaaaah!), decreased libido (what’s libido again, somebody?), irritability (well … erm … guilty) and memory loss (not sure, can’t remember). However, my levels of T-whatever – not sure if they tested for T3, T4 or both, are in the normal range. My level of TSH though is just outside the normal range – just a smidge too high. As a consequence the docs have decided to wait and see. I can totally understand the logic of this – apparently it does fluctuate and it’s not as if it’s wildly off the scale, so try again in another month and see if it’s still high, and if the levels of T-whatsit have decreased or not.

Really – I can totally understand that – but it’s just sooooo frustrating, as I sit here grumpily shivering, with period pains! (Oh yeah, and a flare just to increase the fun.)

One interesting thing – apparently the most common cause of hypothyroidism (under-active thyroid) is an autoimmune problem. Surprise, surprise!

As to the confusion – I’ve just about got it straight in my head that there are all these tests and roughly what they’re for, but nowhere can I find clear guidance as to what is and isn’t normal range for any of these tests – it seems that for TSH it used to be considered that up to 5.5 was OK, now they reckon about 4.5, or maybe 3.5, or sometimes 2 depending on who you ask, and apparently some authorities in the UK reckon up to 10 is fine! I’m just going to go off and find a nice sandpit to bury my head in for the next month.

I’m fed up with being a yo-yo!

March 24, 2010 at 10:46 am | Posted in Me, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) | 7 Comments
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On the plus side, at least a yo-yo goes up as well as down! I’ve had another mini-flare (fizzle, floret?) since I last posted, which is why I’ve been so quiet lately … well, that and the fact that work has been insanely busy lately. I rather strongly suspect the two are connected!

I have posted before, once or twice :-) on the importance of pacing yourself and a week or so ago I gave a great demonstration of exactly how now to do that! Worked long hours, worked part of the weekend, ignored the warning signs, took paracetamol or rubbed in magic herbal rub stuff and just kept on working … and of course woke up one morning almost unable to get out of bed. I did get out of bed … still had deadlines to meet, but came home early in a LOT of pain.

So, what would a sensible person do at this point? Take some painkillers, go to bed and have a bit of a snooze probably. I thought, ‘Well, I don’t feel well enough to work but I still have all this City and Guilds embroidery stuff I need to do, so I’ll go to bed with some research books for that …’

Eventually I reached a point where I HAD to go to sleep, but was still trying not to as I thought that would mean I wouldn’t sleep at night. I got to the point where I realised that I’d need matchsticks if I was going to keep my eyes open and gave in.

At this point I was still in a LOT of pain but did drift off to sleep … and woke up an hour later feeling fine! I know sleep is important, but that’s a really extreme example! And I did sleep well that night too. I must have been really sleep deprived and not even realised it!

Mind you, waking up with five to ten hot flushes (flashes) per night is not exactly helping on the sleep front.

Still, things are looking up – work is now steady (which means that I’ll be panicking in a week or two that there’s not enough), apart from one odd twingey pain in one knuckle I’m not bad on the RA front … the yo-yo is on the upswing again … and will hopefully sit at the top for a while at least!

Physiotherapy – what’s it all about?

November 9, 2009 at 3:03 pm | Posted in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) | 2 Comments
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Wren posted a comment asking about physio and I thought it might get a bit long-winded for a comment answer, so I’m making a post out of it!

This was Wren’s comment – sorry Wren, just realised that this answer is going to come a bit too late for your appointment! “On another subject: How often do you see your physio (physical therapist)? What do you do at the appointments? Are there special exercises? I’m curious because I keep reading of others having PTs they go to frequently, but this is something that I’ve never done, or even had suggested by my doc. I’m seeing him on Saturday morning, and I plan to ask about it, but in the meantime, how does this work for you?”

I personally see my physio every two weeks at the moment, but that’s a timing that we decided between us and it’s changed over the months I’ve been seeing her. I started seeing her weekly when things were really bad and we’ve moved on to two weekly. We tried three-weekly but that didn’t work out – by the time I saw her after three weeks my shoulders were in agony!

There are indeed special exercises, but again they’re entirely individual to each patient. I think it’s fair to say that generally you don’t do any exercises during a flare, reduced exercises during a “fizzle” (if you have fizzles, as I do!) and you try really hard to do them when things are fine, but frequently forget! Luckily I have a very understanding physio (this is afterall the woman who recommended a year’s supply of cake, but she says I’m not allowed to post that story!!) and she appreciates that it’s hard to remember to do the exercises when things are good!

What we do at the appointments is 1) Talk through how I’ve been over the last couple of weeks since I’ve seen her 2) Decide what needs doing this time 3) Do it. Usually, what needs doing is either ultrasound on my knee(s) or ultrasound on my neck and shoulder(s) or both. Again, I’m lucky to have such a flexible and understanding physio. By the time I got to see her, I’d been seeing another physio privately for months. Long story – see here and we’d established that ultrasound works for me. Again, it’s a very personal thing. Some people find acupuncture fantastic, especially, apparently, for knees – I don’t. Some people find ultrasound completely useless – I don’t.

If there’s a different joint giving me problems we’ll talk through that and discuss if there are any exercises that might help, or whether ultrasound, TENS etc. might help.

I have a whole selection of exercises that I should do regularly for my neck, shoulders and knee, and a bunch of others to ease morning stiffness in other parts of me. The knee, neck and shoulder exercises are more to strengthen the muscles in those parts, so that they can do a better job of supporting the joints, rather than to actually do anything to the joints themselves.

The attitude of the nurse practitioners is ‘use it or lose it’, so the consensus seems to be that the more you exercise (within limits), the better. Not being the world’s most active person the only time I’m likely to overdo those limits is when I’m having a flare (where minimal exercise is fine) or if I’m doing crochet, embroidery etc. and don’t want to stop although my hands hurt!

I hope this helps explain the whole physiotherapy/physical therapy thing a bit, but it is, I stress again, only my own very personal viewpoint, and I know that every physio is different (because I’ve seen at least five over the years) and every patient is different. I reckon if you find a physio that suits you it can only help, so why not give it a try?

Psychology of Flares

June 15, 2009 at 1:03 pm | Posted in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) | Leave a comment
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I had a really good week last week – out three evenings during the week (OK, not exactly boogieing the night away, but still out and having fun), an exhibition and a carnival at the weekend, and some gorgeous walks in the local wood and heath with hubby.

I can’t say it was a pain-free week unfortunately, but it wasn’t TOO bad. I did worry, of course, that was overdoing it, and perhaps I did … I feel fairly rubbish this morning … but then again it’s Monday morning and I’m back at work, so that’s normal, isn’t it?

So while I absolutely KNOW that flares are a thing that happens and they are not ‘just in your head, dear’, I do wonder if I’ve kind of talked it up by thinking I was overdoing it and worrying that I’d have one.

Not that I’m sure I’m having one now – but you see, I’m still worrying about it … very silly really; why can’t I just get on with my life and put the worry to one side?

Maybe it’s because I’m for once NOT particularly stressed at work, not stressed about Tiny cat etc. etc., stopped stressing about someone I used to consider a friend and don’t anymore … I’ve run out of other things to get wound up about and I have to stress about my RA!

Hmm, I’m not really managing to say what I want to say here, but I’ll post anyway and perhaps someone can make sense of my ramblings. If so, please comment as I could od with some sense right now!

Stress, stress and more stress … but feeling OK!

March 11, 2009 at 9:24 pm | Posted in Me, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) | 3 Comments
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So, are my flare-ups related to stress, or not? I thought they were but I hope they aren’t, because if they are I’m in for a big one any time now!

Yesterday I had my first ever row (maybe too strong a word, but very strong disagreement) with a client, on the phone. I was, to say the least, short with them. I was convinced I was standing firmly on the moral high ground as they’d made a bit of a mess of things, and I told them so… only to realise mid-conversation that I’d also made a mistake. While theirs was more serious, it caused an earthquake in my moral high-ground leading to rather a landslide.

It took the rest of the day to try to repair some of that, and to TRY to stop constantly worrying about it, while also trying to get on with some work.

It was all put into perspective somewhat when I got home to find that one of my friends had lost his job, another’s cat had died and a third’s husband had had a stroke!

All in all not one of my best days. I ended it by telling myself firmly that tomorrow WOULD be a better day, and it has been. (Not that that would have been hard!)

As for the RA, I had practically no problems yesterday and although I was pretty stiff on getting up this morning, it didn’t last too long. My neck and shoulders are stiffening up again now, and slightly achy, but that may just be because it’s been over two weeks since I had physio, as my physio isn’t well and had to cancel the last appointment. Employing positive mental attitude to assume that’s what it is, and not the start of a stress-related flare!

Flare up – and I know I brought it on myself!

January 27, 2009 at 2:27 pm | Posted in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) | Leave a comment
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The OT gave me a very sound lecture on pacing myself and how important it is! Over the past two weeks I have dismally failed to pace myself, and over the past couple of days I paid the price! I had been feeling much better, and we’re fantastically busy at work, so I’ve just been getting on with it. Getting on with it means working from 8.30 to 6.30 most nights, and not taking a proper lunch break, although I really DO try to get up every hour and have a stretch.

And, because I was feeling so much better, I didn’t crash at the weekends either. It was great – I was busy, I was enjoying myself at the weekends, why slow down?

This Saturday, I had the answer to that question! I was full of aches and pains when I woke up, attributed it to morning stiffness and thought no more about it. But Sunday I was really quite unwell and hardly got out of bed. I was sleeping badly because I woke up in pain, and I felt like everything was back to square one.

The good news is that after a much reduced working day yesterday and a rest all day Sunday, I feel much better today. The bad news is that apparently if one keeps doing this it’s not just a vicious circle … as in feel great, be madly active, crash, get better, feel great, be madly active, crash etc. … it’s actually a vicious spiral in a downward direction. So each time you crash things are just that little bit worse, and you don’t get quite so much better.

Well, I’m glad I KNOW this, and I know what to do about it. Now all I have to do is actually DO it … which, alas, is much easier said than done!

I have a real incentive to exercise!

April 10, 2008 at 9:25 pm | Posted in Me, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) | Leave a comment
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I’ve been trying to lose weight for years with limited and yo-yoing success. Of course about the only symptom of RA I haven’t had in the last few months is weight-loss. (And I know that weight-loss can be a very serious problem for some people, so I shouldn’t be flippant!) However, on top of all the evidence that exercise helps anyone, there’s quite a bit of evidence that it specifically helps with RA, and that even if you’re hurting, provided it’s not a flare-up, you should carry on. I haven’t really managed to work out what a flare-up is exactly yet – some places say it’s when you have pain and stiffness, and then you’re in remission when you don’t; well I have pain and stiffness every day but it’s very variable in its intensity. Other sites/books say that some people will have pain and stiffness all the time but flare-up is more intense. So I don’t know if I’ve had a few flare-ups (days of relatively intense pain) or none, and it’s a treat I’ve got to look forward to! Anyway, the point is that I had a really bad day today – feeling ill as well as very stiff and in quite a lot of pain. Still managed some work, but then in the evening did my exercises and immediately felt SO much better. I’ve had a good week until today and yesterday was the first day I didn’t exercise, and today … bam!

Now it could be coincidence. ‘As a scientist’ as the great Kathy Sykes is wont to say, I know that could be sheer coincidence but I’m keeping an exercise/pain/food diary so hopefully if there is a pattern I’ll find out. In the meantime I feel very motivated to exercise for a change, which is great!

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