Every winter my husband, Richard, and I plan a week-long escape to spend time warming up in a sunny place. Winter is my hardest time of year with my rheumatoid arthritis (unless I am flaring, or it’s a Tuesday, or...you know the drill!).
But honestly, the cold in our home town stiffens my joints, increases my pain, and worsens my fatigue. By the time we reach February I feel like a grouchy cave dweller afraid of sunlight.
The trip was great treatment for my RA
We had a great time this year in Key West, where I slept in, ate well, de-stressed, and also managed to get into the pool for physical therapy every day. I felt so much better!
Although I wasn’t thrilled to go back to the cold, I was excited to show off my new moves when I returned to my aquatic physical therapy sessions. Unfortunately, I did so well that they graduated me from therapy (however, I get to continue on my own so that is fine).
Lifestyle medicine for RA treatment
As I did my walking laps in the pool, I reflected on how Key West was a great treatment for my rheumatoid arthritis. Then I got to thinking about the creative prescriptions rheumatologists could make to help their patients.
What if creative prescriptions were possible?
While medical treatments are important, there are other aspects to life with RA that could be helped with a few creative prescriptions. What if doctors could write prescriptions for anything?
Here’s what I would ask for:
- Key West (or warm, sunny weather) — It’s an undeniable difference I observe after some time away from my wintry home climate. Sure, I love my home but being out in the cold, wind, rain, and snow does not agree with my rheumatoid arthritis. Having time to warm up does wonders for my pain and stiffness.
- Extra rest (with a side of naps) — If only rest was recognized as an official effective treatment, because it surely is! When I can get more sleep with some downtime during the day, my energy levels and pain vastly improve. It may take time away, but it also adds quality to the remaining time in the day. Even better if this one came with a Netflix subscription! (Think insurance would cover that?)
- Jerk removal (or, less time with stressful people) — I really wish there was a cure for stressful people! We all have them in our lives and do our best to manage (or minimize) our time with them, but sometimes it is just impossible and cannot be helped. When I have time away from stressful encounters I notice a decrease in both my pain and fatigue.
- Delicious treats (or food therapy) — Everyone has their preferences for food that makes them happy. While in Key West, I experienced the curative powers of mango cocktails and key lime pie. In just about any place, any kind of chocolate (except white chocolate! That is not real chocolate and I draw the line!) will bring me a smile, even during my worst RA flare.
- Cuddles with fuzzy kitties (or pet therapy) — We’ve explored this before, but animals are healing creatures. When my kitty is snuggling and purring, I can feel my stress levels decrease and my joint pain fades a little. Connecting with your favorite animal is known to have many positive impacts on health and chronic pain.
The value of creative RA treatment
I’m starting to think these additional prescriptions may be much more appreciated than medications with their tricky side effects and uncertainties about whether they work. Sure, my biologic treatment is currently effective, but they haven’t always been. Any of these special treatments always work to make me feel better and don’t come with the downsides of crazy side effects!
What do you wish the doctor could prescribe you?
On a scale of 1(low) to 5(high), how difficult is it for you to talk about having RA?