I feel very lucky that I have a good rheumotologist. He is French but speaks very good English so we rub along quite well. He has looked after me since I was diagnosed in summer 2008, it is only the rheumotologist who deals with my RA and prescribes medication. My GP is kept in the loop but he doesn't get involved.
Recently I had to see a neurosurgeon recently as I have a trapped nerve in my upper back and a herniated lumbar disc. It was the rheumotologist who had to refer me. Due to the trapped nerve I haven't been able to discontinue the prednisone steroids I have been taking. I am down to 6mg a day but just can't get off of them. I have been told it is the steroids that has caused the diabetes that I was diagnosed with last October so I am keen to get off of them. I have a scan tomorrow on the upper back/neck region to identify the exact disc involved and then I see the neurosurgeon again to discuss an operation. He has promised me that he will investigate the lumbar region when he has sorted out the trapped nerve. I certainly hope so as the herniated disc in the lumbar region is drastically impeding my mobility.
I really detest taking my RA medication, steroids have given me exaggerated muscles, diabetes, affected discs in my back and methetrexate was possibly involved in pneumonia I had twice. I seem to be prone to sinusitis and this then becomes chest infections. As many people with RA I have more than one auto immune disease and all cause me pain.
I decided to dig out my TENS machine and use that on pain affected areas and I find it very useful. My physiotherapist certainly approved. It is just the electronic waves and no drugs involved. I also use heat pads and cold pads depending on the areas involved.
I get a lot of pain in my hands and wrists so I purchased some fingerless support gloves and found these very effective. For the cold weather I wore them with some fingerless mittens. The ones that worked best came up to my elbows.
Last week we had some beautiful weather. It was warm and sunny and I certainly felt much better but today I am in pain again as it is cool, cloudy and rainy.It makes me depressed too when the weather is like this as I just cannot do much if anything. Last week I was, with my husband's help, actually doing things around the house and cooking. Unfortunately I have had to use my food processor more and more to make pastry as rubbing fats in by hand are just too painful. But it is a little price to pay if I can make meals myself. When I can manage to be a normal housewife it seems to help my pain as I am happier and contented. This I think is as much a relief for the RA as anything. I usually take morphine or paracetamol and codeine for pain but last week I hardly took any! Not so this week, I have needed to take morphine just to sleep.
I have investigated music therapy. I am a lover of music of many forms but especially like classical music, Celtic music and rock.
Apart from rock music I find music soothing to meditate to. However it depends on my mood what I listen to. I like nothing better than singing along to Queen in the car on the way to a hospital or doctor appointment. When I was having physiotherapy with my previous physiotherapist we would play Queen albums whilst he worked on my joints. A little elderly lady was in the waiting room when I came out and she looked horrified! The physio said she probably thought she would have to listen to Queen too while he manipulated her knee!! This evening I am having a wonderful time listening to a Celtic concert whilst typing. Music is used a lot in therapy and proved to be very successful too. It can make you laugh and make you cry. It can cheer you and depress you.
Many people would prefer to use non drug treatments but I understand that it is not totally feasible to just have that treatment, it is however helpful to use these alongside regular prescribed medication. I do not agree with people who say that they have a cure for RA by using non drug treatments and therapies. In fact they make me very angry as no cure has been found for RA and rheumatologists will tell patients they will have to take medication for ever.
One therapy I would like to indulge in is walking. I have the herniated lumbar disc, RA affected hips, knees, ankles and feet and am only able to walk very short distances and that is holding onto my husband's arm or my walker. Normally I use a wheelchair; I have both a manual and electric chair. But I am used to this now and for me to spend a day without pain would be amazing.
I have found that my medical people - doctors, physios and nurses are keen to promote non drug complimentary therapies as long as they are use in conjunction with RA drugs. We all have our favourite means of dealing with pain. For me the heat/cold therapy, music, compression gloves and TENS all work well; however, we all have to find what is best for us and cannot tell anyone else they will certainly benefit from works best for us.