To Limp or Not to Limp?
The title of this article may strike some people as strange. After all, there really shouldn’t be much decision-making involved in limping, right? If it’s too excruciating to walk with full weight on both feet, then limp, and if not, then walk with a normal gait. Simple enough, right?
Unfortunately, living with rheumatoid arthritis is never simple. It’s a complicated disease that causes all sorts of complications in one’s life. It can impact the type of work one does or whether someone is able to work it all; it can have ramifications on family life or on a person’s decision to have children; it can influence how much time one is able to spend with friends and at social outings; and it can certainly impact the way a person moves.
For the past couple of weeks, my right hip and sacroiliac joint have been very painful. My hips are frequent offenders when it comes to joint pain, but typically it is intermittent, flaring up for a couple of days and then decreasing. This time, the pain has been relentless, varying only in intensity but never becoming mild enough that I’m not aware of every movement. There’s no position that is comfortable; sitting, lying, standing, and walking all hurt. While I do think about the implications of each activity (trying not to sit for too long, pondering whether it’s best to sleep on my back or on my side, searching for something to lean against while standing), it’s walking that has me second-guessing my natural inclinations the most.
My hip is begging me to limp. Each step sends a jolt of searing pain through me. When this recent bout of hip pain started, I didn’t want to give into the temptation to limp because I’ve recently begun a new job. Many people are still not familiar with my work and what I am capable of, and unfortunately, physical ailments continue to carry a stigma in our society. I worry that people may have preconceived notions of what a person with a disease can accomplish. Therefore, at my new job I don’t lie about having RA, but I don’t advertise it either. Ideally, I prefer for people to get to know me before sharing that I have a chronic illness, as I worry that I may be viewed as a liability rather than an asset. There are positive and negative aspects of rheumatoid arthritis being an invisible disability, and I’m often glad that I have the option of whether or not other people know that I have a disease. Therefore, thoughts of whether or not I want people at my new job asking me what’s wrong went through my mind when deciding whether to give into the temptation to limp.
For the first couple of days, I tried not to limp at my job. However, the intensity of the pain overpowered my self-consciousness, and I gave my hip the assistance it was asking for by not putting all my weight on it. While this did make each step less painful on my hip, it began taking a toll on the rest of my body. I began having pain in my right knee, my lower back, and my left sacroiliac joint. While limping was taking some of the strain off my right hip, it was increasing the demand on surrounding muscles and joints, and I was feeling pain through a larger percentage of my body.
I ended up going to the chiropractor, who was quickly able to assess that I was significantly out of alignment. After the adjustment, the pain in my lower back and right knee decreased rapidly. While the chiropractic treatment did not eliminate my hip pain, the next day the rest of my body was back to normal.
Since then, I’ve been trying not to limp in spite of the protestations from my hip. Unlike an injury, which may heal more quickly if allowed to rest, the source of my pain is stemming from my own body’s immune system. Therefore, resting the joint is not necessarily going to end the flare, and the rest of the joints and muscles in my body can become painful from the extra demand that limping places on them. Nothing’s ever easy with RA, including how best to nurture our bodies when in a flare.