My Joint Pain Wasn't From 'Too Much Screen Time'

Before I was even diagnosed with RA, I was experiencing some joint pain in my wrist; not just a dull ache but a full and complete freezing of my right wrist joint.

Experiencing painful joints for the first time

I was taking a European History Seminar and was furiously writing notes to keep up with the class discussion. At this time, I was a junior in college, so this was something I was used to. However, once as I was beginning to write a word, my wrist suddenly collapsed on the page. I tried to pick it up and continue writing, but it was as if someone had squeezed glue in my joint and forced it not to move. Not only that, but it was incredibly sore and painful.

Seeking medical attention

I tried to remain calm as if I weren't in pain and everything was fine, but it was difficult to do so. That was the longest hour and a half of a class I had ever experienced. Once class was over, I immediately rushed home and called my mom, telling her the story and asking her what I should do. She encouraged me to go to urgent care and ice it, just to decrease some of the inflammation.

Receiving invalidation instead of answers

After getting my best friend to drive me (I couldn't really drive with just one hand, especially since I'm right-handed), I sat in the urgent care office, waiting for them to evaluate me and give me some answers about what was going on. Unfortunately, all I got was, "oh, you know, your generation is always on their phone and laptops, so you probably just have carpal tunnel. Buy a brace and stay off your phone."

That wasn't the most comforting answer... in fact, it was quite infuriating, especially since I explained to the doctor the whole story about how this happened, and yet she continued on her diatribe on the insidious nature of technology. There wasn't much I could do or say at that point, so I followed her advice and got a brace, took ibuprofen, and stayed home for the next few days.

My painful joints were a result of RA

What I didn't realize until later that year was that this was actually the beginning of my rheumatoid arthritis. I would experience several other similar joint problems throughout my body, including my ankle and shoulders.

I know that the doctor probably didn’t mean any harm in her remarks, but still thinking about them now, I wonder what would have happened had I not followed up consistently on my body’s pain? What would have happened if I hadn't been attentive or perceptive to my joints and had just internalized what she was saying as the truth? Would my RA have gotten worse, meaning that I would experience more pain and more destruction of my joints before I got diagnosed?

The power of self-advocacy

This experience, to me, is a stark reminder of the power language holds in communicating about your body and in someone else talking about your body. It also calls to mind that the best advocate for you and your body is yourself; don’t let anyone advise you otherwise.

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