Suiting Up . . . for a Day at the Office

Last updated: June 2019

Most people familiar with rheumatoid arthritis understand that mornings are tough. Those of us with RA tend to experience morning stiffness, so we need more than a cup of coffee to get moving in the morning. Sometimes before I get out of bed I have to make fists and extend my fingers several times, roll my wrists and ankles in circles, and bend and straighten my knees before I feel ready to stand on my own two feet. Once I get out of bed, some additional stretches and yoga moves are sometimes necessary, as my arthritis pain can also lead to muscle tension and soreness. Then, finally, it is coffee time.

RA morning stiffness impacts my morning routine

However, if my disease activity is at a higher level, my arthritis morning routine doesn’t stop once my morning stiffness ebbs away. I have to take additional steps in order to get through a workday.

Carving out time to treat the pain

First I’ll take the maximum doctor-recommended dose of either acetaminophen or ibuprofen (I alternate them). Then after my shower, I’ll apply either over-the-counter topical analgesic patches or prescription lidocaine patches. The latter is expensive, costing me just under a dollar a pop after my insurance plan’s portion. So as I apply them I say to myself, “Is the numbness worth a dollar? Yep. Is it worth two dollars? Uh-huh. Is it worth three dollars to take the edge off this pain? It sure is.” Three is the maximum that can be applied at one time, so I don’t have to take that line of questioning any further. However, if multiple joints are flaring, I do have to decide which three offenders get the patches, bearing in mind that large joints like my hips and sacroiliac joints can require two patches for adequate coverage.

Preparing for the rest of my morning

Then I go about the rest of my morning preparations. On bad mornings such as these, I am truly blessed to have a husband who steps in and does the bulk of the work to get our kids ready for preschool. The rushing around to get myself out the door is hard enough, but chasing after a two-year-old with socks and shoes in hand just isn’t feasible when I feel really bad. The last thing I do before leaving is a mental inventory of any aides I might need, such as wrist splints or replacement patches. Finally, I get into my car.

Exhausted before the day starts

On mornings like this, I can feel totally exhausted before my workday even starts. Of course, the pain and fatigue symptoms contribute to that, but when my joints are inflamed so much extra thought goes into my preparations and my movements that I feel worn out before my day has even really begun. Sometimes as I smell the menthol scent of the over-the-counter pain patches, I’m sent back to my soccer-playing days, when players would rub ointments on their sore muscles.

In a way I feel much like an athlete before a big game, going through a routine of preparations and psyching myself up for what lies ahead. However, in my case it isn’t a winning touchdown or the perfect free throw that I’m aiming for, it’s just making it through a day at the office. On bad days, someone else’s mile is my marathon. And on these achy, painful days I have to calculate my movements and put in a lot of prep work if I’m going to make it across the finish line.

By providing your email address, you are agreeing to our privacy policy.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Join the conversation

Please read our rules before commenting.

Community Poll

Did you know rheumatologist Dr. Donica Baker is answering community questions?