Dealing with Rheumatoid Arthritis Pain

Cathy Health Guide
  • One great thing about rheumatoid arthritis is just when you think you have hit your worst possible flare and wonder how you will ever survive it, RA, like a storm, moves on and gives you a break. It is during this time that everything about living life feels new and exciting!   ~ The Life and Adventures of Cateepoo


    This is a post I wrote for my personal blog some time ago.  When I realized that whatever flare I was experiencing at the time would eventually come to an end, I found it easier to accept the pain because I knew it is only a short lived presence in my life.


    Along with coming to the realization that the pain of a flare is temporary, I have found several other ways to manage my pain that don't rely on adding more medications to my mix.  

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    I am forced out of my house almost daily due to work commitments and homeschooling activities.  This isn't a bad thing because it gets me away from focusing on the pain.  When I sit with a group of friends or teach a class of adults, my mind is able to move away from the pain for a short time and enjoy being with others. 


    Down Time

    I require a lot of down time.  During a flare I make sure I carve out additional time to read, watch TV, sleep, etc.


    Deep Breathing

    With a little meditation practice, I realized that breathing really does help quiet my mind and bring peace.  When I started practicing deep breathing, I realized how much of the pain I keep inside of myself and it needs to be released.


    Write About Simple things

    When I experience pain, it is easy to let my fears take over.  "Will this pain ever leave?  How intense will it become?  Why is this happening to me?"  Over the years I have turned to my blog in times of pain.  I have found it more important on these days than any other to write about the simple everyday things that are good in my life.  When I start focusing on all the wonderful things in my life, the pain doesn't seem as intense.


    Read blogs

    Finding others in similar situations helps me to not feel all alone.  Although I hate that others are experiencing the same type of pain I am, it helps to know I am not alone.  It also helps to find blogs that show people moving forward after the pain.  This helps me tremendously to remember this flare is temporary. 


    Visualize pain-free times

    I am a huge believer in the power of our thoughts.  When I am at my worst pain, my daughter often comes to me and says, "Remember the last bike ride we took?  You did really well. " She is good at bringing me out of my state of pain and into a world of hope.      


    Castor Oil Packs

    During a flare, I like to lie in my bed with a castor oil pack on the inflamed area.  I can't say that this alternative treatment makes the pain go away long term, but while the joint is wrapped in this pack with a hot pad wrapped around it, I do feel some relief.  In fact, it gives me enough relief that I can often sleep for short periods of time.


    Along with following these simple steps of distracting my pain, I have also learned to pay close attention to my flares.  I have noticed over time that my RA flares tend to follow similar patterns in my body.  Knowing these patterns has helped diffuse many of the fears that can come with a flare.  Knowing the patterns helps me to know what to expect and makes enduring the pain a little easier.


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     The joints in my feet pretty much constantly hurt.  I don't want to say I have "accepted" the pain, but in a way I have.



    The pain is always in my left knee.  Once it starts, it is constant and once it gets out of control, it requires a cortisone shot. 



    Normally, the pain in my hips last about a week.  It is painful when I sit for long periods of time and especially at night. 



    This is where the pain is the most intense.  I start feeling the pain late afternoon/early evening and it intensifies throughout the night.  This is the pain that keeps me up crying all night because it throbs and the pain feels like something I can't control.  For the last few years I have also had a huge nodule on my shoulder that turns red and is warm to the touch during a flare.  Fortunately, these flares usually only last about twenty four hours.  Knowing this is generally short lived is what gets me past the pain.



    I also have nodules in my wrist which seem to get irritated during a flare.  The flare in my wrist is tolerable and generally only lasts about 48 hours. 



    My fingers rarely hurt.  They get super stiff where they can't bend and they swell, but for some reason they rarely hurt. 


    What has made the pain of rheumatoid arthritis the easiest for me to handle is knowing that as much pain as it can bring on, it almost always gives us a breather....eventually.  When I hold onto the knowledge that this is just a small time in my life and that good days are around the corner, the pain is so much easier to handle.   


    I do tend to be very slow moving in seeing my rheumatologist for pain.  I tend to "hope" the pain will go away because generally it does.  However, when it is intense for long periods of time, I do not object to starting on prednisone or getting a cortisone shot if needed.  After a while, we can all only take so much of the pain.   

Published On: April 06, 2011