Easing the Pain of Osteoarthritis and Rhematoid Arthritis Through Non-Traditional Medicine
I really feel that I'm no different than most of our readers. Yes, I was diagnosed with Osteoarthritis 16 years ago and have had to undergo nine surgical joint replacements. After all of that, I went through a ton of physical therapy, saw neurologists, orthopedists, had injections, pills, creams, lotions, potions and other attempts at relief from my chronic pain; I kind of felt that I'd "paid my dues" and didn't deserve any more. Of course arthritis is non-judgmental and can be an "equal opportunity" destroyer.
Anyone can (and often does) get at least one of the many forms of it in their lifetime, and I wasn't exactly thrilled to be diagnosed with the Rheumatoid form recently. A close friend of mine in England who has spent much of her life in a wheelchair has a wonderful attitude and has learned to laugh at many of our physical challenges. (In fact, she has done many stints of volunteer work in Africa and started a "club" for the two of us - ACA for African Cripples Anonymous!) When one of my doctors suggested that I would have to use a cane the rest of my life, I decided that I wanted a cane that would "tell" people about me. Since I'm a nature photographer, I now have one cane with a cheetah print and one with a zebra pattern! When I was diagnosed with my second variety of arthritis, she said that I was really "selfish" - some people don't get the chance to have even one kind!
Some people don't understand the seemingly callous attitude, but most understand that it's a survival attitude for us. There's no point in sitting around feeling sorry for ourselves and complaining - we both TRY to keep a positive attitude (well MOST of the time anyway) and do things for other people. We've both discovered that somehow, when the pain is the worst, going out and helping others helps us cope with our own challenges.
After some VERY negative experiences with my local neurologist, and one orthopedist - both of whom claimed that unless I took massive doses of narcotics, there was nothing else they could do for my chronic pain and for me - I decided to take a different approach. After talking to some knowledgeable friends, I started hunting for doctors who practiced non-traditional medicine. No, not voodoo, but I hoped for something that could actually help me! After all, the Native Americans, most of our grandparents, and all of my adopted family in Africa have relied on natural medicines, healers, herbs, massage, acupuncture, meditation, etc. for hundreds of years. In many areas of the world, healers and doctors who practice holistic medicine are now working hand-in-hand with more traditional doctors to help the patients. In fact, two years ago when I went in for my post-op checkup on my knee from a total knee replacement, my orthopedic doctor was amazed at the rate my knee was healing. When I finally told him that before surgery, I was working with a healer in Africa, he thought a moment, gave me a big grin, and said, "Gee, it really seems to have helped!"
I have finally found a young doctor from China who has three medical degrees, has clinics in two hospitals in my area and her practice focuses on pain management and rehabilitation (without pills and nerve numbing shots)! I realize that I will never be "cured," but my hope was to find someone or something that would lessen my chronic pain, or at least make it more tolerable. I have two appointments weekly during which I receive treatments including deep muscle massage, some electronic nerve stimulation, manipulation by the physical therapist and exercises to do at home (which are changed frequently as needed), exercises to do at the clinic, meditation and a vast variety of other things. This is by far the most positive experience I've had since I was first diagnosed many years ago.
I recently was on a photo-shoot in Michigan (I'm a photographer by trade), and was more than thrilled to find that I was able to walk on muddy and uneven rock-strewn paths without suffering the
consequences! On alternate days, I go to a warm-water arthritis pool for short exercise sessions. All of my treatments are focused on strengthening the areas around affected joints to support them rather than returning for more surgery, with the ultimate goal to lessen the intensity of my chronic pain. A bonus is I am now able to sleep much better at night and am not awakened by pain! We are beginning to work on my balance - a major issue for me. As I get stronger, my doctor may be using acupuncture on me also.
For me, one of the most exciting things is the positive attitude I've felt from this clinic. I'm NOT a number, a folder or just another prescription - it's actually important for the staff to help me feel better! I realize that this may not be the solution for everyone, but after many long years of struggling with deteriorating joints, falls, pain and surgeries, I finally have some hope. I KNOW they are helping me get stronger. On my initial appointment with this doctor, she informed me that if I just wanted pills and shots to numb the pain, I really needed to go to a different doctor. But if I wanted to get healthier with less pain, and was willing to work WITH them, I was in the right place!
Yesterday, I saw a newscast about a disabled Israeli lady rower who had just won a gold medal. She stated, "If you look at an obstacle as an obstacle, it will knock you down, but if you look at an obstacle as a challenge, then you'll do the maximum to overcome it!" I love her attitude; I love her thinking. It seems to fit in with my way of living, as many of you've heard me say, WATCH ME!