Person with knees encased in ice block / in flare due to cold weather

RA Snapshot: A Cold Day

On a cold morning, leaving the refuge of my soft bed and heated mattress pad is all the harder. Having managed to oust myself from this more-comfortable setting (is anything truly comfortable when living with rheumatoid arthritis/rheumatoid disease [RA/RD]?) to the far-less comfortable state of standing upright in the chilly air, I urge myself to face the day. The caffeine and warmth of hot coffee helps, but the bustle of getting ready for work is extra challenging in the cold.

Warmth: A welcome respite

I congratulate myself on remembering to warm up my car far enough in advance that by the time I sit down in my vehicle, it is toasty. The heated seats, a luxury that I have come to view as a necessity when car shopping, send warmth into my aching hip joints, which protest the work of applying pressure on the accelerator and brakes. I take a moment to feel gratitude to have a car with functioning heat and heated seats, which upgrade the drive to bearable.

Once I arrive at the parking lot, I grimace at putting my work bag on my shoulder even before I open the door to the outside. My body stiffens against the cold air, which sends jolts of pain through my hips. As I climb the stairs, my knees join the chorus of distress. I stop a moment to bend and straighten them, hoping they might pop and bring some relief to the aching stiffness, but they are stubborn and remain unrelenting in their discomfort.

As I continue my walk to my office, the cold air simultaneously wakes me up and exhausts me. It feels invigorating on my face while draining the rest of my body. I think for a moment of the people who have RA/RD and prefer the cold to warm weather. I reflect anew at how strange this disease is, as it impacts each of us in such similar and such different ways all at once.

How do I stop the RA war going on inside my body?

Now my elbows and shoulders join the group of painful joints, with darts of hot fire shooting into my bones with each stride through the winter air. It’s as if my joints are volunteering for war, more and more of them signing up for sacrifice and carnage. I wonder how to wave a white flag and call a truce with RA/RD. So far I haven’t found a way, only momentary ceasefires where the pain downgrades to discomfort.

I am glad for the wave of warm air that hits me as I enter the building. Immediately after turning on the lights and hanging up my bag, even before removing my coat, I turn on the space heater below my desk. As it begins to raise the temperature, I am glad for a moment to sit down and to be out of the cold. It won’t be long before sitting still creates its own set of painful sensations, but for a moment I’m grateful to take some of the weight off my knees.

The rest of the workday I will strategically stay indoors as much as possible. When I enter my car at the end of the day, the temperature has risen since the morning, but I don’t have the benefit of a pre-heated vehicle. I straighten and bend my fingers within their warm gloves and look at the temperature indicator on the dashboard, eagerly waiting for the needle to inch away from the “C” so that I can turn on the heat without cold air coming from the blower.

I think about how much of my life is spent waiting to be slightly more comfortable as I drive toward the duties of evening time.

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