Battling Ignorance about Pain Management and Arthritis

Vanessa Collins Health Guide
  • I did not go to work today.  I was in too much pain, and very lacking in sleep.  I did keep my physical therapy appointment, though.  I learned some things today that I wanted to share. 


    While I was sitting in the waiting room a young man sat down beside me.  He was on crutches and soon began to tell me his story.  According to this young man, he has been diagnosed with RA in his knees and hands. He said he also has OA. He has had two recent surgeries on one of his knees. I asked what rheumatologist he was seeing. To my amazement, he told me he was not seeing a rheumatologist. I then asked if he were taking anti-inflammatory medicine, prednisone, or a DMARD.  He said no to all. I was, quite frankly, stunned. This young man is in the care of an orthopedic surgeon who practices in a well-known orthopedic group in a college town about an hour away.  For whatever reason, this young man was not being referred to a rheumatologist. 

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    Needless to say (to those of you who know me) my new aquaintance now understands that DMARDs can stop joint destruction.  He now knows that he needs to see a rheumatologist.  I hope that I impressed upon him how important this is, and that he asks for a referral soon.


    Okay, on to my appointment. The physical therapist examined my knee and hip.  He commented that there was a lot of crunching beneath my knee cap indicating OA.  He also said that my knee cap was much too "tight".  He then moved on to the iliotibial band.  It is very, very tight and is swollen at the point it attaches to my left knee.  He did a few strength tests and told me my leg is very weak.


    Mr PT had me do some exercises.....nothing intense.  He said we have to start easily because my muscles and tendons are so weak. Then, Mr PT asked what I did to relieve the pain. I told him I elevate my leg and ice it down, and when it really gets painful, I take prednisone.


    That was when I was told, once again, about the dangers of prednisone. I told this man that I am aware of the side effects of prednisone, but when I need it, I really need it.  Mr PT shook his head and continued to massage my knee cap to loosen it up a bit.


    I then proceeded to tell Mr. PT that I will be seeing a rheumatologist soon.  He didn't seem too keen on that, either.  He said a pill wouldn't fix what is wrong with my leg, but PT will.


    Ahem. I am still shaking my head.  I believe that Mr PT will help me.  I certainly hope so; however, why does he apparently have some misgivings about rheumatologists? 


    I am not a person to take medicine if I don't need it. I know that now I need it.  The pain is too intense without it.  Sometimes it is too intense with it.  That is why I am anxious to see my new rheumatologist and get the inflammation under control, so that I can take less medicine for pain.


    I don't know if I have RA or some other type of inflammatory arthritis.  I do know it is affecting my life.  I miss a lot of work, I rarely have "good" days. Regardless of the views of Mr PT and apparently many other people in the healthcare field, I am going to do my best to get better.  And.....I will take prednisone when I have to take it............and, I will see a Rheumatologist and do as she adivises.


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    My conclusion is this:  We Have A Lot Of Work To Do!  There is a lot of ignorance out in the world about the different types of arthritis and the treatments available. I had no idea of how deep the void is, until my afternnon at the Physical Therapy Center. This afternoon was my Afternoon Of Enlightenment.

Published On: April 26, 2011