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Arthritis - What type do I have?

dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 9,859
edited 02/18/2014 - 10:07 AM in Arthritis, Osteoarthritis
I was just responding to a member to regarding arthritis and as I was posting, I realized I started to write a book.

I have had my spinal surgeries (1978 - 2000), and I have suffered through all the pre-surgical post-surgical roller-coaster rides, the ups/downs, the flare ups, and of course the uninvited visits from the Beast.

Since around 2004, I started to become familiar with Arthritis. I can and have pointed to formal Spine-health articles/videos that best describe the ailments and treatments, but for this one, I am going to keep it personal. I will add that in my opinion, the best site to learn all about arthritis is http://www.arthritis-health.com/.

This site is a sister site (lack of a better term) to Spine-health. Veritas Health is the parent company of Arthritis-health.com and Spine-health.com
What is arthritis and what types are there?

RA - Rheumatoid Arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disease and is classified as an autoimmune disorder. RA, which can be painful at times, can be controlled, managed, and improved with medications and exercise.
OA –Osteoarthritis is a type of degenerative arthritis that occurs when the cartilage that acts as padding between the joints breaks down. This type of arthritis unfortunately does not have a medical solution. There are exercises and medications to help with the pain, but like many other treatments for the spine, these provide temporary relief only. As the joints wear down more, the only option becomes surgery.

When I heard the word arthritis, the image that I saw was of an elderly person with bent fingers and a slow gait. Those images are valid, but take away the age portion. As I stated earlier, I was diagnosed in 2004, but I really did not fully understand the implications. The pain started in my shoulders. The right one hurt first. I had trouble lifting my arm, grasping things and even trying to shake someone's hand.

My neurosurgeon sent me to a shoulder specialist who started with series of steroid injections. They helped so much. In fact after the second injection, I was almost pain free for 14 months! But when both shoulders started to cause problems, more steroid injections were given. However, there is a medical limit to how much injected steroids can be given to a person without negative impacts.

The doctor told me that the solution was complete shoulder replacement. I had no idea what that was. The doctor showed me my MRI and x-rays of both shoulders at different intervals. It became clear that as time when on, all that was left was bone to bone contact, tears and many bone spurs. Total shoulder replacement surgery is one of the most complex joint replacements procedures available, and it has the most painful and lengthy recovery period.

I had my right shoulder done in April in 2010, then the left one in October 2010. The recovery from shoulder surgery is long and painful. Besides the normal PT, I did pulley activities 3x per day which would bring me to tears each time. All in all, the total recovery time was about 15 to 18 months requiring hard work and intense therapy. But that hard work did pay off for me. I do not have any shoulder pain, and I can lift my shoulders better now with more range of motion than before.

In the beginning of 2011, I started having problems with my hip. Initially, it was diagnosed as a groin problem. I spent about 4 weeks with treatment aimed at my groin. Based on a x-ray and clinical review, it was determined it was my hip. Now looking at those images, I could figure out what the next step would be. I had problems walking, and if I got down on the ground, I could not get up without help. I finally had total hip replacement surgery in October of 2011. The recovery for the hip was like a walk in the clouds compared to the recovery from my shoulder surgery. The key to success lied in the surgeon’s ability. The surgeon must make sure both legs were equal in length.

Now, as a side note,, I developed medically induced cataracts (as opposed to cataracts caused by aging) from the steroid injections. I had cataract surgery in my right eye in September of 2012. This was the best surgery I could have had. I experienced a simple and easy recovery starting the moment the surgeon finished. My vision went from 20/110 to 20/20 in 24 hours.

Now, my right hip was getting jealous because it wasn’t getting the attention my other joints had. I had my right hip totally replaced November 2013. Again, the recovery has been great, and when it comes to my hip and leg, I am golden.

However nothing is easy. My back took a major toll from these arthritis surgeries. A new MRI showed a bit more herniation at L4/L5, plus increased stenosis at L2/L3. But those are conditions I have dealt with almost all my life (except that the stenosis is now in a new place. I already had L4/L5/S1.)

Right now, looking over the past 35+ years I cannot identify which condition caused me the most pain and discomfort. I can’t pinpoint the best, recovery or the best final outcome. I guess in many ways, they have all contributed to the final outcome. Well, this story isn’t over. I know there is more in store for me (my knees). I choose to keep on fighting and keep on trucking.

The arthritis condition is always there. It can impact almost everything I do, even the simplest things. I have so many Arthritis-Buddy-Aids that I could open a store. I understand that the major joints are replaced with a 20 year warranty, so who knows what will happen when 20 years have passed.For now, it’s the simpler things that are difficult like opening jars, and trying to put a seat belt on. The list can go on and on.

How did this all get started? Who knows..
Can I stop it? No.

I do know that the numerous spinal surgeries, which are a type of trauma have had an impact. The surgery-induced trauma accelerates those other conditions: stenosis, degenerative disc disease, and arthritis. They appear earlier and with more severe symptoms. It doesn't seem to paint a great picture for the future. It would be easy to throw the towel in and let things just happen.

But that is where I take a stand. I always talk about being positive and never saying never. Nothing has stopped me so far. My conditions and surgeries may have slowed me down a bit, but I will continue to move ahead.

I look forward to seeing that Beast and fighting with it, so I have the upper hand.

Learn more about Arthritis, read up on it. You want to know more about it before it starts to know you!

Ron DiLauro Spine-Health System Administrator
I am not a medical professional. I comment on personal experiences
You can email me at: rdilauro@veritashealth.com


  • I was first diagnosed with OA when I was a child so they called it 'hereditary arthritis'. My Mum was labelled in her 30's so they called it 'early onset arthritis'. Other family members were older & it's called a natural part of aging. It still surprises me that something that has been known about for so long still can't be explained fully.

    I was a normal kid but not very athletic. I rode horses but wasn't a danger girl so I was only thrown a couple of times. Never did gymnastics or hard sports. Other than genetics I can't offer any explanation. My fathers spine is terribly deformed, when he changes at the gold club people gasp if they see it. I always say it looks like a scenic railway! He has muscle tone only on one side & his flesh drops on the other. After examining his X-rays, MRI's etc specialists expect him to be in a wheelchair but he plays seniors competitive golf & has a single didgit handicap.

    It hasn't been easy for him. 10 or 20 years ago he would of fit right in here. There were the bed ridden times, the walking stick years (we had fun with that!), doctors in our home injecting him with morphine. It was bloody hard but he did everything he could to keep moving & stay happy. I had a great childhood!

    Last time I was in England we had a big family gathering. Yes, there were still walking canes & pill pots for many but the majority said the same thing, "It gets better!". I know this isn't true for all but arthritis can have a way of calming down once the damage has been done. More bits of us can be replaced these days & only time will tell what difference that makes at the end of the day. It's not all doom & gloom though. If you told my family that arthritis only gets worse as you age they would have to agree but that doesn't mean the pain just keeps escalating. Most take a lot less pain medications & are more active than in the past. ;-)
    Osteoarthritis & DDD.
  • RangerRRanger on da rangePosts: 805
    Hey all,
    Some here already know I have been battling with a severe fast moving osteoarthritis for several years now. I haven't had as many surgeries as you Ron but I seem to be shadowing you and catching up. I've always been one to post having a positive attitude and I usually can bounce back to my active lifestyle. But after having this last cervical spine posterior fusion from C2 all the way down to T3 I am indeed struggling, physically & emotionally. This isn't my first spine fusion but this one certainly has kicked my butt and handed it to me.
    I am 30 days post-op which I know is not very long out but I have a minimum of another 60 days 24/7 in this long version of a Miami J collar. I certainly know that this could be a lot worse but I really thought I could do a lot better emotionally than I am.
    I physically prepared for this procedure by working out in the gym for over 3 plus years every day to build core strength and muscle around my spine but now I can see it wasting away. My goal is to bounce back and at minimum get to the physical strength and build I had pre-op which was definitely the best physical shape I had been since playing high school sports 40 years ago.
    I know I will get there, it's just going to be one long road. The bad part is I have more surgeries as soon as I recover from this last rodeo. I just need to get back my attitude which keeps going up and down like a roller coaster.
    Good luck to you all and be safe,
  • Dialuro wrote it all already and I ain't gonna dispute with him :) He really has a great knowledge and great, warm heart (I read the forums :)).
    Osteoarthritis is the deterioration of the cartilage (connective tissue) covering the bones in the joints of the body. It is most often seen in people over the age of forty. Causes of osteoarthritis include wear and tear due to aging or overuse, injury, hereditary factors, and obesity. The wearing away of the cartilage results in the bones scraping against each other, causing the deep joint pain characteristic of this disease.

    The joints most commonly affected by osteoarthritis are those of the knees, hips, and fingers. Other areas can be affected by injury or overuse. The condition can cause minor stiffness and pain, or it can result in severe disability. Treatment of osteoarthritis includes the use of anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin to reduce pain and swelling; supportive devices such as a brace, walker, or crutches; massage; moist heat; and rest.

    Rheumatoid arthritis is one of the most crippling forms of arthritis. It is characterized by chronic inflammation of the lining of joints. It also affects the muscles, tendons, ligaments, and blood vessels surrounding these joints. Deformities can result from the deterioration of bone, muscle, and tissue, impairing function and affecting mobility. Rheumatoid arthritis can occur at any age but usually appears between the ages of thirty and sixty. Three times more women than men are stricken with this disease.

    The cause of the chronic inflammation of rheumatoid arthritis is not known. It is suggested that a bacterial or viral infection may trigger an autoimmune response in genetically predisposed people. People with rheumatoid arthritis produce antibodies that attack their own body tissues. This sets off an immune response that results in the body's release of chemicals that produce inflammation.

    Treatment of rheumatoid arthritis includes aspirin therapy to reduce inflammation and relieve pain, application of heat to joints and muscles, rest, and physical therapy. In some cases, surgery may be required to reconstruct joints that are destroyed.

    Read more here
    "Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars."
    Khalil Gibran

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