Last updated: June 2023
I’ve had a good day. I’ve run errands, maneuvering miles through heavy traffic to the bank, to the grocery store, and back home to put everything away; then Mom’s hair appointment, a run to the used book store she loves, and finally back home again.
Inconvenient RA pain
Now I’m a bit tired. I drop into my recliner and open my laptop. I start reading the news, tapping the keyboard here and there to scroll …
… and my hands start griping at me. I ignore them. It’s been a great day so far, practically pain-free, and I’m not about to let that cruddy rheuma-dragon start in on me now.
Ten minutes later, I’m rummaging my drawers for a pair of compression gloves and considering an ice pack. I hate ice packs. Heat-packs, too, when it comes to my hands. Both help soothe the pain some, and that’s wonderful, but they also force me into uselessness. I can’t do anything while my hands are icing/heating. I suppose that’s the same if the affected joint is a knee or an ankle, but when I have to forcibly still my hands, I feel trapped.
Why am I having an RA flare?
And now, why do they hurt? What did I do to trigger this particular flare? Was it lifting groceries out of the basket onto the conveyor belt, or was it carrying the bags full of them from the car to the kitchen to put them away? Did I make my hands mad while I put the ice cream in the freezer and peanut butter in the cupboard? I know! It was hefting that bleach jug …
But no. Maybe I gripped the steering wheel too tightly while I drove. I do tend to do that—while I’m a fairly laid-back, unflappable driver, traffic stress tends to work its way into my hands. I have to consciously loosen my grip now and then.
In the end, I have to concede, reluctantly, that the flare trigger was, simply, use. I used my hands. It hardly matters what I used them for—a flare can start at any time, and sometimes does so the moment I become conscious and open my eyes in the morning. I move. I flex my hands. I wince.
I write all this because I know that if you’re like me, you’re always trying to figure out why you hurt. What was the trigger for this flare? What did you do that made you hurt this time? If you knew, you’d stop it, right?
But even that doesn’t really pan out, at least not most of the time. How do you stop taking care of your kids? How do you stop doing your job at work, whether it’s driving a forklift or keying data? How do you stop pushing in the clutch pedal in your car, or like me, gripping the steering wheel? How do you just stop doing?
For people with RA, "life" triggers flares
Here’s the conclusion I’ve come to: Life triggers flares. Everything does, and nothing does. We have little or no control over it.
But that’s not so awful. As the old saying goes, “I could go out and walk in front of a bus, too,” implying that an unexpected End can come for any of us at any time. Do we react by hiding indoors, never venturing out from fear of that ubiquitous bus? The vast majority of human beings don’t. We’re pragmatic. We have places to go, things to do, life to live.
So, until RD forces me to, I don’t stop anything that I do each day. I walk, I do stuff, I work, I play, and during all of it, I use my hands continuously. I do housework. I clean up the lunch dishes. I type. I sketch and draw and paint. My hands, literally, do the heavy lifting in my life.
Triggers, schmiggers. Now, let me grab that ice pack.
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