Characterizing RA pain

I would imagine that like me, most of you are asked from time to time to explain the type of pain you are feeling in your joints ravaged by RA.  By that I mean the questions like “Is it a stabbing pain?” “Is it an ache or throbbing pain?” and on and on.  I have never even been a big proponent of the “pain scale” that tries to attach a number value to the pain but at least that has some clinical value.  Now I totally understand the need to ascertain if pain is chronic or acute, or caused by something other than our joints, neurological pain or muscle pain for instance.  But for most of us RA pain is chronic and ongoing with brief respites of pain free episodes in between if we are lucky.

Well to the “type of pain” queries I have learned to say YES ALL OF THOSE.  I find it almost tedious to have to sort out what type it is and beyond that I question the value of doing so.  Does it really matter if it feels like someone is stabbing my joint with a hot poker or if it feels like a wood screw is turning inside my joint?  I only know I want it to stop!  I would much prefer time be spent on sorting out strategies to deal with the pain.  Heat, cold, braces, medications or all of these?

I find myself playing out this question in my own mind sometimes after being asked.  HMMMM is it achy or stabbing?  What purpose does this serve?  None that I can come up with.  Maybe it is related to the need to try to define it to the finest degree.  I am not sure.  Another issue with this is that often the pain changes or is a combination of types.  So in the first hour I wake up a stiff achy pain may be the most predominant while later in the day after using the joint for hours it may be throbbing.  And often it is all of them rolled into one nasty episode of pain!

Speaking of pain is it just me or do you hate those tired old clichés that seem to elevate pain to some level of heroism?  You know the ones I mean: “No Pain, No Gain”, “If it doesn’t kill you it makes you stronger”, “This too shall pass” and on and on.  If any of these were true we would all be Hercules wrapped up in angel’s wings!  I admit that my pain tolerance after 20+ years of RA is off the charts but that does not make me some kind of freakish hero.  I would so much rather have little to no pain and have a low threshold. Any day!  When I am with a group of friends I am often the go to person for how to speak to handling pain since I deal with it continuously.  OK that is nice and I appreciate people respecting my experience with it but Oh how I long to NOT be that person!  To be able to say “I have no idea what that feels like” would be very happy words to express!

So when it comes down to it, like it or not, those with RA are, however reluctantly, pain experts.  So with that in mind my advice to people who are asking about my pain is don’t expect me to define it just know it is tough, tiring and not my friend.  Enough said.

Nan

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