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RA, Movement and the Slippery Slope

I need to give you some heartfelt advice that is as close to a warning as I can get. My horrific experience this last year with a hip that was totally worn out put me in a dangerous situation that was as close as I had come to spiraling down the slippery slope to forever.

I have rheumatoid arthritis. Those of us who have an autoimmune disorder understand what I mean when I say I have an overwhelming, incapacitating fatigue when I have a flare. Over the last five years I have learned to slow down when the flare signs start to blossom. To take care. So, this last year as the RA pain plus the pain in my hip increased, I did just that. I slowed down. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a flare that passed with additional Medrol and rest. It was a bone on bone raw joint pain that worsened with each passing day.

I became debilitated. I was weak. I was living in pain. My doc provided OxyContin and tried very hard to get me a surgeon. Eventually, I did have surgery. By that time, I was in a sorry state and ended up in the ER and then in a rehab center where I could have continued my decline.

I didn’t.

The rehab center gave me a chance to fall back and regroup. It gave me a chance to regain my strength. At the center, a few weeks after surgery, I found that the more I moved, the better I became. The better I felt. I spent a lot of time walking the long halls. When I did go home, I missed the long hall walks.

I recovered. I am using a cane. Going to an excellent physical therapy. My hip is happy. Gone is the excruciating pain I had lived with for months. I am lucky.

The outcome would have been better if I had had surgery sooner. However, equal to that sentiment is the idea that I would have been better if I had had a strong physical therapy program for my RA. I would not have been as debilitated as the hip pain increased. I champion the notion of a designated physical therapy for RA. We would be much better off.

In her book Living with Rheumatoid Arthritis (Johns Hopkins University Press), Tammi Shlotzhauser, MD offers a plan of action for various levels of RA wellness. A daily full range of motion is her minimum recommendation. We need to keep moving despite how we are feeling.

Movement lets our bodies know we are still alive and it is our intention to stay that way. A good message to send. My brush with the slippery slope made a believer out of me.

4 Comments

  1. Yes, our bodies are made to move. Whether we have an autoimmune diagnosis or not, we need to move our bodies every day. Our muscles and bones are just waiting for the “movement” signal so that they can perform the duty that they were designed for. I too have a cadre of chronic immune conditions and find that even if my body says “don’t exercise”, I feel better if I listen to my brain and put on my exercise clothes and “walk the walk.”

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Rick Phillips says

    Well I understand the hip issue. Mine was worn out for years before I got it replaced and in the end it was totally disintegrated. Six years later I still love that joint surgery. I think you will find movement so much easier, but give it time. It took 6 months for things to completely settle in for me. I wish you the very best.

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  3. Thank you Rick. I am in a much better place now than I was. I am working in the warm water pool for a few weeks and have two more regular PT sessions. I appreciate your encouragement.

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