One of the hardest things to deal with when you have arthritis, especially at a younger age, is the opinion of the people around you. It can be really difficult on days where an ACE wrap around your elbow or another visible spot could help with the pain. You get odd questions – “Oh.my.gosh, what happened to your arm? Are you okay?” It’s hard to explain why the wrap may be there one day and not the next.
Taking pills and other medicines can also be a problem. I take OTC pain meds, which are not as noticeable, but can be if you end up having to take them a lot. It can also be embarrassing when you use ointments like Bengay or Icy Hot. Going to class smelling like a poor person’s version of a York Peppermint Patty always gets exciting.
And then there’s the fatigue. You can’t do a whole lot to combat this except to try and push through it. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always work. Others probably shouldn’t follow my example, but I tend to drink a lot of high caffeine beverages as a result – coffee, Dr. Pepper, Mountain Dew, etc. I probably crash pretty hard because of that when I do crash, but for me right now there seems to be no other alternative.
Working out can give normal people more energy, but it seems as though the opposite is true for many with arthritis. When I work out, I feel great right after (unless I manage to hurt myself doing, which as a clumsy person is very possible). The next day and the day after though, I’m completely wiped out. This doesn’t even take into account the pain that happens while working out. The best types of workouts for people with arthritis tend to be those that improve range of motion (dance), strengthening (weight training), and aerobics (bike riding). If you have bad knees, however, dancing and bike riding don’t help a ton. One of the hard things about working out is knowing how far to push yourself also. “No pain, no gain” can only go so far before there’s negative gain.
So why this focus right now? I should be getting ready to go play with a bunch of awesome second-graders a few blocks away. Instead, I’m sitting in my apartment with ice on my knees, an ACE wrap on my elbow, and Liquid Freeze on my shoulder. It’s hard to know when to push yourself and when to sit out unless things get really painful/bad. Usually, I can tell when things are going to end up affecting me this way later. Unfortunately for me, this is how I woke up today.
Even when you try to plan for everything, it’s hard to remember that arthritis can be such a random disease. Planning won’t help with everything.