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!