Britt Johnson has had RA and spondyloarthropathy since she was a child. For years, she lived with pain without a diagnosis. Finally in college she saw a rheumatologist, got a diagnosis and started taking medication. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and is an advocate, writing on HealthCentral and on her blog The Hurt Blogger. This is her story of regaining function. For Britt, Motion is Lotion.
A year ago, Britt Johnson was in a bad way. Her medication wasn’t working, she couldn’t use stairs without help and she was very depressed. She wore compression braces on her knees and could hear the fluid moving around in the joint. She says “one day I got really mad, put my compression braces on and went for walk. I iced my knees afterwards and realized I felt better. Getting out had helped.”
“One day, I decided to run to the end of the block and there was no significant backlash. I decided to see if running would help me. I combined walking and running and used compression braces when I exercised. My husband gave me some brightly colored running shoes. They were very motivating!”
“I got a combination fungal/staph infection, ran a solid fever for two months and had to go off my meds. I decided to do a 5K after the infections cleared. Having something else to focus on helped me get through that. It didn’t sideline me the same way it would have in the past. My doctor made sure I had good pain control and it helped me to keep walking. When I started back on the meds, I responded quickly and did a 5K 3 months later."
“I exercise four times a week for 30 to 45 minutes. That’s the most my body can handle. Finding a running and hiking club helped keep me motivated.” Britt has trouble with her knees, so she only runs two times a week and hikes one or two times a week. Swimming aggravated the arthritis in her spine, so these days, she uses the pool for aqua jogging. “It’s about finding your fun.”
Britt isn’t a superwoman. She has bad days, just like everyone else with RA. “I have flared since and when that happens, I back off on activity.” She believes it’s important to pay attention to your body and listen to what it tells you. When she exercises, she wears compression braces to protect her knees and is ready to stop if her body has had enough.
Britt has gone from not being able to walk up the stairs to running 5K races and going for long trail hikes. Gradually pushing herself to do a bit more while respecting her body’s messages has brought her to a better place, both physically and emotionally. “I have learned how much of a mental game this is. When you put your mind to something, it’s pretty damn powerful.”