The Physical Pain Of Rheumatoid Arthritis: Can Dealing With It Actually Be ‘Easy’?

My answer would be: it depends upon one’s perspective.

During my journey through chronic pain and debilitating  inflammation, I’ve gone through so many phases that I can’t even describe them all. Some of them were more difficult than others, some of them lasted longer than others, and some of them even made re-appearances along the way. Looking back, though, I’m really happy that I went through all of these ups and–yes–all of these downs.

And come to think of it, I can’t even really describe this current phase that I’m in, other than to say that I’m really liking it. Now, what follows is the *last* thing that I ever thought I’d find myself saying, especially considering just how bad the pain can actually get at times. What I jotted down, only a couple of days ago, was that I’ve found that dealing with the physical pain of RA seems relatively easy, when compared to the challenges of dealing with all of the emotional pain, feelings, and thoughts that result from living with chronic illness.

Okay, so let me be clear…I am in no way trying to minimize the physical pain that is caused by rheumatoid arthritis. Those of us who live with it directly know how severe, and overwhelming, it can be at times. Looking back at some of my recent posts, however, I’ve started to recognize the emergence of certain themes, which are the difference between physical pain and emotional pain, and the importance of being able to distinguish between the two.

I guess what I’m saying is that all of this emotional pain that I’ve carried around for years, which I’ve always seen as a given, is actually quite optional. I have only recently come to recognize as much. Now that I’ve decided to just toss aside (this might not be the best way to describe my actions, as I’ve certainly not ignored my feelings…maybe “moved past” or “worked through” is better) a lot of this anger, depression, frustration, fear, and concern about what other people might think/not think, all I find myself left to deal with on a daily basis are the physical challenges that result from my pain and disability.

Which are certainly still significant, mind you…but stripped of all the items mentioned above, everything just seems so much…easier.

A couple of hours ago, I had a pretty major flare. As my mind and body started slipping away, I told myself that I needed to hold on to a positive thought. (This is something that I’ve gotten into the habit of doing during the past few months, even–especially–when my pain is at its worst.) This afternoon, however, I didn’t even have the energy to form an entire thought. All I could come up with was one word: respect.

I repeated, and visualized, this word to myself over and over for I don’t know how long. Eventually, my flare passed…but I was left wondering why I had chosen this word. I’ve written previously about respecting my limits, and not pushing myself too hard…but this isn’t exactly what I was referring to, when I was deep down in my flare.

And then it dawned upon me. I’ve always envisioned my body and my illness as two different things, connected yet separate. For the first time ever, though, I finally thought of them as one integral whole. And as I did so, all previous associations related to ‘me versus my body’, which I’ve carried around (as well) for all too long, slowly started to melt away.

What I was respecting during the midst of my flare, in fact, was myself. And as I respected myself, I felt no need to distinguish between my body, and my rheumatoid arthritis. Yes, I was in a lot of pain…but believe it or not, I actually felt good.

If I keep telling myself that this is hard, then things are only going to continue getting harder. So, I’m going to change my perspective, and try the exact opposite approach. I’ll let you all know how it works!

Stay tuned…for the next adventure of Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy!

More Blogs…

The Kid With Arthritis
I’m Rachel, a middle schooler living with polyarticular juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. Though it is seemingly a negative experience, I am finding positive ways to go about it. I am learning, loving, and laughing a little bit more everyday, and I am hoping to share all the things I’ve learned!
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Adventures in Chronic Illness
Like many of you, Rheumatoid Arthritis and Fibromyalgia have touched my life. They have changed my life and they have made it crazy at times. When I look in the mirror, I don’t see the same person I saw four years ago. I have changed in more ways that I could have ever imaged before chronic illness came into my life. What I am is a mother, a legal assistant, a health blogger, and patient advocate. What I am not is superhuman. I am here to give an honest of RA and FM from my perspective. If helps just one person, I have done more than I thought I could.
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Sjogren’s Style
I created a Sjögren’s Syndrome blog focused on style because I truly believe that we can feel better physically–and feel better about ourselves–despite the impact of illness.
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Inspired by Ankylosing Spondylitis
Yes – I said it. Ankylosing Spondylitis, along with other events corresponding with my diagnosis, have inspired me in many ways. I hope to provide a different take on living with this progressive inflammatory disease. The goal is to promote looking at the prognosis as a wake-up call rather than a life-without-parole sentence, offer encouragement, and hopefully sprinkles of humor here and there. So… Welcome, find the most comfortable position you can handle, and relax!
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Fighting RA with the Magic Vegetarian
Body Mind and Spirit of Healing Rheumatoid Arthritis.
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More resources and blogs:

Seattle Times: New Prescription Monitoring Draws Complaints

Since October, pharmacies around the state have been sending information into a giant computer database, detailing every prescription they’ve dispensed for controlled substances. That means every pain pill and patch, every anti-anxiety medication, every sleeping pill — listed by the patient’s name.

Beginning Wednesday, pharmacists, doctors and other prescribers will be able to see all such drugs a patient is getting anywhere in the state, even if the person pays with cash.

The state’s new Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP) will list all the doctors prescribing the pills and will even spit out a color-coded map showing every place the patient got drugs.

Read More:


Real Profiles of Rheumatoid Arthritis
Photos © Jody






Cascais, Portugal (Europe) Born in New York City.

How long have you lived with RA?

Since 1995 but only diagnosed as having Psoriatic Arthritis in 1998…..I was inspired to profile myself after ready about Kate who also has PA.

What advice would you give to someone who has just been diagnosed with RA?

Read, inform yourself like crazy and never stop, find a good Rheumy AND a good natural doctor who can compliment the medical doctor. Talk to other people with inflammatory autoimmune disease…join groups with people with similar problems…in person or on the net. Early diagnosis and treatment can stop joint destruction…I waited too long to get proper medicine trying to treat it naturally when I should have been on the disease modifying drugs to stop the destruction…so unfortunately I have a knee replacement and a fusion of some joints in my foot and a very crunchy elbow and my other knee is a bit dodgy and various bits and my back are sensitive if I over do it…and until I was stabilized by my Rheumy I was in intense pain all the time and could hardly walk and would wake up in the morning with fingers that were stuck and very painful.

Do you use any mobility aids?

Hardly at all now…used to have to use crutches, wheel chair, splints for my wrists.

How has living with RA helped to improve your life?

I am more humble, less arrogant, more patient, more accepting of me and others…and I can relate better to my patients…I am a doctor myself…I used to be a real sports guy…always doing sport when I could, very fit…I had to change that image of myself…I miss the intense physical activity and still live vicariously through my friends tennis and golf exploits…

Do you have any visible signs of RA?

No…not to the average person. In fact even many of my close friends find it hard to believe that I have had such pain and that I have a serious disease and I am on strong medicine…I try to be graceful with my problems…and also its not such good advertising if the doctor has bone and joint problems himself!! When my friends find out they say I have courage and show me respect and admiration for overcoming such difficulties…I like that…its satisfying to know that people respect me and know that I have overcome immense hurdles.

Can you please describe some of your favorite coping strategies for living with RA?

Talking, sharing with a good friend about my limitations, hugging somebody, good sex with my wife. Listening to music, helping others with similar problems…I used to see a psychologist and that was helpful. She helped to accept myself and see the disease as a gift. She also gave me permission to feel sorry for myself sometimes!

Can you please describe your current medical (traditional and alternative) treatments?

Methotrexate once a week, Meticoten 5mg daily, Paracetamol 500mg twice daily, Ibuprofene 400mg once daily…paracetamol with codeine from time to time. I try to have a regular massage, acupuncture, I try to have a sauna and a swim twice a week (but I have not had time for this lately.)

Is there anything else about yourself that you would like to share?

Yes…I have 7 kids from 31 to 6…one boy the rest are girls…4 still live at home. The teens drive me crazy! I love kids but sometimes need a break from them. Because I have so many mouths to feed I had to work full time through all the pain and discomfort. I was and am the main money earner so just had to do it. I am fortunate that I can still regularly work 8-10 hour day…I love my work, and live only 5 minutes from the office. My team at the clinic is very supportive and enables me to do my best. Good healthy food and regular sleep are really important to staying in remission.