How I Live With Osteoarthritis As A writer

Some days I’m in so much pain I want to scream to high heavens.

Why?

Osteoarthritis!

Are you suffering from Osteoarthritis?

Okay- let me share my experience with you.

First, let me explain what my doctor told me about Osteoarthritis:

-that it is a type of joint disease (mine is in my right knee), which could be as a result of, amongst others, a previous injury.

When I heard this, I secretly smiled and nodded enthusiastically. Yes, there is a reason for this excruciating pain and without doubt,  there will be a cure.

You see, I fell flat on my face at the train station one morning , on my way to work, sometime ago.

Ouch!

I used both knees to try to break the fall. It didn’t work. They both hit the concrete floor so hard, I thought they had cracked open. I didn’t really feel pain that day. Just my bruised ego. A few days later however, I felt a stiffening of my knees, especially my right knee. I started limping.

An x-ray later, a minor bruising was said to be the reason for my pain.

Okay, I mused. Not too bad then. This is going to heal in a few weeks.

It did not.

The pain had also become more intense and almost unbearable. My knee was also swollen.

An MRI scan a few months later revealed the following:

  • joint effusion with Synovitis
  • OA changes in the patellofemoral compartment
  • Tear medial meniscus
  • Grade 1 sprain MCL and pes anserinus bursitis

English please!

Translation?

Osteoarthritis. Simple.

So what are my symptoms?

If you don’t have this disease, you cannot believe or imagine the pain.

My knee becomes very stiff at random times during the day and totally refuse to function, especially in the morning. I literally hold on to the sides of the bed when I go to the bathroom. A spray of hot water from the shower on my knee usually eases the stiffness and allows me to get ready to go to work.

Going to work? That’s another story. It is a complete nightmare.

Here’s why–

I commute for roughly 1hour 30minutes to work everyday. The same going home. On both journeys, I take two trains, one bus ride and walk a short distance.

The agony!

I sit down most of the way, that is, when I’m lucky to find a seat in the crowded early morning and evening rush hour trains. While I’m happy to find seats most mornings and evenings, I struggle to get up afterwards.

After sitting for sometime, my leg stiffens up and becomes very painful and unyielding. I shuffle and limp to the open train door. On occasions, I have noticed fellow commuters look at me impatiently for failing to limp out of their way quickly. I forgive them. They don’t know what I’m battling with.

So what has helped me manage my pain so far?

Nothing!

Before you say, that’s not possible, here’s what I have done so far:

  • Physiotherapy. I have gone through many weeks of physiotherapy, which was aimed at strengthening the muscles around my knees.

You want to know the truth?

I felt less pain after each session- but only for a day. Then the pain will return – worse than it was before the physiotherapy. The pain will continue to grow in intensity  until the next session. It was a vicious cycle.

Finally, the physiotherapist discharged me. There was nothing further she could do for me. She sent me home with a list of exercises for me to continue at home.

Who was she kidding? What made her think my pain will be better at home when it wasn’t under her professional and expert care. I finally resorted to pain killers.

  • Yes the medications!

Nightmare!

I take Naproxen, Tramadol and Zapain. No, not all at the same time. I take them at different times depending on my level of pain. The effects are horrible. The effect of Naproxen is not so bad, but it does absolutely nothing for me. Zapain makes me drowsy.

Does it help?

Not really. it knocks me out momentarily and numbs the pain. When it wears off, it leaves me wishing I had not taken it in the first place.

Trymadol has pretty much the same effect as Zapain but add nauseous to the above list.

Not good at all!

  • Steroid Injection- this was injected directly into my knee and was supposed to be targeted at the pain. I’m sure you’re thinking that surely this must have worked.

Yes, it worked- but only for 5 days! 5 days of no stiffness, no pain, no medication.

Heavenly peace!

Then the pain returned. In a way, I wasn’t surprised because the consultant warmed me that the injection worked for some people and not for others. I had hoped and prayed that I would be one of the few people it worked for.

No such luck!

So how has it affected me as a writer?

The pain can be distracting when I sit down to write. To prevent severe stiffness, I do a range of motion strengthening and stretching exercises to improve the flexibility in my joints.

It eases the pain somewhat.

The following have also helped me managed the pain:

Fitbits

I set my Fitbit to remind me to take about 250 steps in an hour. This ensures that I’m not immobile for longer than necessary. This takes me away from my writing, especially when the words are flowing.

Bikram Yoga. Yes!

I swear by Bikram yoga. I simply love the heat. Besides so many other benefits, it relaxes my muscles and helps me sleep like a log at night. Good bye pain! Well, until the next day.

Has this pain affected my social life?

Without doubt.

For one thing, I am perpetually in Go walk Sketchers. ‘Experts’ recommend it for people like me who suffer from osteoarthritis because they maximise mobility as well as help minimise pain. Out goes my high heel shoes that I love wearing to occasions.

But that’s the least of my problem, really. I just want the pain to go away.

I am still in pain and in treatment. I have learned to managed my pain so that it doesn’t cripple my day to day activities, especially my writing.

Are you afflicted by osteoarthritis? If so, I please share your experience on how you mange your pain.

Thanks for stopping by.

Oby

 

 

 

6 thoughts

  1. This is a Very good read! Indeed! I must share this with my mum who also has sever knee pain.
    Kim

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