Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy usually divides his levels of pain into three (broad?) categories: “It hurts”, “It hurts a lot”, and “It hurts a heck of a lot”. (Okay, that’s not what I really call the last category, but I’ll go ahead and keep things G-Rated here on my blog.) Sure, if I really wanted to, I could fine-tune it even more…but I usually don’t.
Pain levels. Thinking about this topic immediately raises questions of subjectivity. How can we know if your pain is worse than my pain? Or if we want to keep it personal, how can I know that the pain I experienced yesterday was worse than the pain I experienced today, when throughout both days all of my major joints were semi-numb from the constant pain and inflammation? And while each new flare feels like “the worst pain ever”, is there actually a way to quantify such a statement?
I do have one objective measurement of my pain, though, which I have used continually for over the past year: the electrotherapy treatments that I receive while at physical therapy. (I don’t know how scientific this is, but a quick search on “objective measurements of pain” did return quite a few references to electrostimulation and electrotherapy.)
Here is the chart that I have created, based upon the level of the first (of many) analgesic/anti-inflammatory currents that is delivered to my knees and ankles during these sessions:
3: It hurts.
7: It hurts a lot.
10: It hurts a heck of a lot. This also corresponds to the highest level of current that can be applied…I can go beyond this level if necessary, but only for extremely short periods of time.
12: The worst pain ever. Over the past year, I have reached this level only a handful of times.
This past Thursday, however, I had to make a modification to the last entry on this chart…the one that corresponds with “the worst pain ever”.
When the current reached 12 and I couldn’t feel a thing, I was convinced that the machine was not turned on or that the electrodes were not plugged in correctly. I’ve said this before to other therapists, innocently enough, only to see them jump up pain after they have carefully laid their fingers on the electrodes to see if they are working…only to find out that they are! My current physical therapist know better by now, so she continued to slightly increase the level of current that was being administered.
14…Nothing. 16…I can’t feel a thing. 18…Still can’t feel it. Nanny nanny boo boo.
And then, finally, I felt sometimg. We had reached 19.
Was this indeed “the worst pain ever”? (According to the machine, it was.) The thought of “How am I even still walking around?” no longer seemed like a strange question to ask. I could see my physical therapist’s face, and I could tell that she was really concerned…even though she didn’t say a word.
I’d love to say that my feet and ankles improved greatly on that day…but they didn’t. These levels of pain continued on through Friday. But I do have some good news. Yesterday, I went back to physical therapy, and my levels were back down to an 8. Phew!
That’s right between “It hurts a lot” and “It hurts a heck of a lot”. (And I’m acting relieved???)
This drop over the past three days, from 19 to 8, comes out to a 58% reduction in pain! I may not be out of the woods yet, but I have no doubt that I will be there soon.
Stay tuned…for the next adventure of Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy!
RA.com Features Interactive Resource to Help People Living with Rheumatoid Arthritis
ABBOTT PARK, Ill., May 13, 2010 /PRNewswire/ — As any do-it-yourselfer knows, a good home improvement project has both style and substance, adding functionality with aesthetic appeal. For people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) who may face difficulties around the house, adaptable options around the home are particularly important. To celebrate National Arthritis Awareness Month, Abbott is highlighting an interactive “RA Home Makeover” tool on ra.com (Living with RA section) that gives people home makeover tips to help make living with RA easier.
I am originally from a very small town in the Midwest, but moved out to Los Angeles six years ago. Recently diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis, my wonderful husband and our little zoo of a home keep me going while I deal with the difficulties of a chronic illness and endeavor to improve my health.
Imagine this scenario: you have recently been diagnosed with a serious medical condition. Your doctor has outlined your treatment and prognosis, given you some leaflets and a handful of prescriptions to fill at the chemist. Your family and friends may be supportive to begin with, but they have never been through what you are going through, so how can they understand? You’d like to join a support group, but your work and family commitments mean you can’t get to meetings on the first Tuesday evening of each month. So what can you do? The answer is to use the internet – where you can find online community support and information for all sorts of conditions from “Alopecia Aerata” to “Zellweger Syndrome”. (Better Health Channel, 2010)
Blogs can often attract quite a “large and dedicated readership” because they “engage people in knowledge sharing, reflection, and debate” (Boulos et al, 2006). One such blog with a large readership is “Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy – Adventures of a superhero on his journey through chronic pain and debilitating inflammation”. Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy (or RA Guy for short) shares not only his journey through a chronic disease, but comprehensive information about auto immune diseases and their treatment. RA guy also has a Facebook profile with links to the blog, and also a Twitter presence, again which links back to the blog. The blog has multiple comments to each post, and additional comments are also posted on RA Guy’s Facebook profile whenever he puts a link to the blog.
Waking up in pain. Going to bed in pain. Never knowing if tomorrow’s going to be the day it comes back with such force that your life is shattered, sidelined again while you put everything on hold, while you find a treatment that works. Hoping you’ll find a treatment that works, having waking nightmares in which you don’t. No longer remembering the time Before, back when your body was your own. Fighting, always fighting, to live, to get better, to not lose function, to find hope, somehow. Living with rheumatoid arthritis is living with a relentless assault, not just on your body, but on your mind, as well. Sometimes, your biggest challenge is to not give in, to stay focused, to stay sane.