From Lifelong Joint Pain to RA Remission
Joint pain didn’t just show up one day and surprise me. In fact, it’s honestly hard to remember a time in my life when I didn’t ache.
It started during my elementary school years.
Was it really just growing pains?
I vividly remember various afternoons and evenings feeling hopeless and helpless as I curled up in the fetal position overcome with pain.
My parents would find me sobbing on the couch or in my bedroom sobbing, yelling out about how much my everything hurt. My knees, ankles, and wrists often ached so deeply that I’d worry about how I was going to go to school the next day, or walk around, or play with my friends.
A higher than normal ESR
Of course, when it began, my parents immediately took me to the pediatrician. After an exam and some labs, we were told that, although I had a higher than normal ESR (or sed rate), everything else appeared fine.
My agonizing discomfort was chalked up to “growing pains” and the doctor recommended Tylenol or Advil to relieve my symptoms, alongside extra exercise, use of a heating pad, or extra long baths, and massaging my muscles.
Trying to adjust to RA pain
Over the years, the levels of pain in my knees and other joints waxed and waned. Believing the pediatrician and being too young and naive to advocate any harder for myself, it would be years before I’d seek additional follow-up.
In the interim, I found ways to adjust. When the pain would flare, I would sometimes feel like it was impossible to move. I’d cancel all of my plans, reach out to my teachers to let them know I’d be missing class, increase my consumption of over-the-counter pain medication, and pray that laying still with several heating pads would help things stabilize.
Shortly after graduating college and moving into my own apartment, my overall health began to decline. What started as significant GI distress soon impacted my whole body.
Getting an RA diagnosis
Persistent joint aches and stiffness along with low-grade fevers directed me to my first rheumatologist.
As a female in my early twenties, I was dismissed fairly quickly as suffering from fibromyalgia, but I wasn’t ever confident that the diagnosis fit. At the time, my joint pain had been a nearly lifetime companion and I didn’t expect it to ever disappear, so I just soldiered forward.
Several years later, after finally being diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, I was referred to a new rheumatologist for additional evaluation. My gastroenterologist listened closely to my symptom complaints and pieced them together with my medical history. It wasn’t a surprise to either of us when I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis shortly after.
Treatment greatly reduced my joint pain
Together, my doctors decided a systemic biologic medication would be my best option. Ideally, it could help manage both of my autoimmune diseases.
Within a few doses of Remicade, I found my baseline joint pain significantly reduced. Occasionally I felt some aches or stiffness, but the shock I had of my new, mostly pain-free days was hard to describe.
My ability to live, work and play regularly had increased all but overnight, and I couldn’t believe it had taken more than two decades to find this kind of relief.
Remission of RA pain symptoms
My RA has been in remission for the last few years, but I still experience flares from time to time.
Recently, I wrote an article sharing how I manage a change in pain and the steps I take to get it under control. I’m so much better educated now than I was years ago, and I hope the things I’ve learned can help you in managing your rheumatoid arthritis.
On a scale of 1(low) to 5(high), how difficult is it for you to talk about having RA?