Arthritis – Daily Steps Towards Being Better
If I had to capture it in one word, I would say “goal setting” – okay, that’s two words. The signs of arthritis, those your doctor can see in x-rays or blood tests, can be mild or severe. The symptoms, those things you experience, like stiffness or pain, may fluctuate from day to day depending on how well your arthritis is being managed. Regardless of the type of arthritis you have or its severity, it is the goal setting that seems to be the foundation which sets apart those individuals who manage their arthritis well from those who do less well.
Teresa, a 40 something person, recently spoke about her experience with Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS). AS is one form of inflammatory arthritis that generally starts at the bottom of the spine. This inflammation can spread upwards to involve other parts of the spine. In Teresa’s words “it’s about a sore back with a whole lot of other body parts thrown in”. Left untreated, the bones of the spine begin to grow together or fuse causing the spine to become stiff and inflexible. This type of arthritis usually starts in the younger years between the ages of 15 – 30.
Teresa attributed her early symptoms to misspent youth. She led a very active life yet continued to have low back pain, stiff joints, pain at the tendon attachments, and trouble with plantar fasciitis. She described these nagging pains as becoming her new normal. She believed that she could muscle her way through and did her best to ignore her symptoms . She worked full time, had 2 children, and went on with her life including skiing, playing tennis, golfing, biking and curling. She laughed when she said she single handedly supported the massage therapists, physiotherapists and acupuncturists of Kelowna. Her point of no return came almost 20 years later, when she could no longer manage her job and had given up most of her sports.
She had been told there was nothing she could do about her arthritis. She knew that ignoring her arthritis wasn’t working, yet she wasn’t about to give up on herself. Teresa set goals in many aspects of her life and in her search for relief; she decided to set goals for her arthritis too. She set her sites on being as healthy as she could be. She asked for and got a referral to a Rheumatologist, an arthritis specialist, who was able to diagnose her type of arthritis. She learned all that she could about medications, appropriate exercises, protecting her joints, managing her pain and other symptoms. She worked every day at improving some aspect of her arthritis. After a year of taking her arthritis seriously, she set a goal to get back in shape and keep moving. Feeling well enough, her personal philosophy was that if she kept moving, her arthritis would never be able to catch up. She signed up for a Joints in Motion fund raiser with The Arthritis Society, a goal that would have her walking 10 k in Athens, Greece. Since then, she has participated in 6 similar events and her next goal is a 6 day trek in Iceland. Despite her challenges, she’s not worried about the hiking, just the 5 nights of sleeping in a tent.
Has it been an easy for her? No. Is her arthritis gone? No. She just keeps chipping away at her goals, bit by bit, every day.
Not everyone can walk/run long distances or travel. Everyone, however, can benefit by taking control of their arthritis. Small changes, daily steps towards your goal and sticking with it can make a big difference. If you need help getting yourself back on track, contact us at The Arthritis Society. We’re here to help.
Trudy Battaglio has her Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work and Political Science (Community Development). Trudy is Manager of Education & Services with The Arthritis Society in the Interior, BC, and manages The Arthritis Society’s Kelowna Arthritis Centre.
For more information about arthritis and The Arthritis Society - www.arthritis.ca
Thanks Kelowna – You Helped Us to Raise $21,000 for Arthritis Research and Programming at the Walk to Fight Arthritis on June 10, 2012