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A woman wearing a wrist brace screaming out in pain while holding her wrist

Wrist-y Business

My right wrist, AKA my “bad RA wrist,” has been flaring up for over a month, causing major limitations and disruptions in my life. I’m not dealing very well with this, probably because my wrist hasn’t flared up this severely in many, many years. Not since 2004, I think. So why now? As usual, I have no idea, and I just keep hoping and praying that it will get better again soon. I’m also taking a prednisone burst right now, which is helping a little, but it’s not completely taking care of it.

How my RA wrist pain began

This lumpy, damaged joint of mine–with little white scars dotted across my hand from a failed surgery–first started giving me problems not that long after I was diagnosed with RA. Maybe about a year later? I was a college student at the time and, as a commuter, I usually had to park my car far from where my classes were held and walk a long way across campus while dragging a heavy backpack crammed full of books.

I was still trying to figure out RA

Being right-handed, and using my right hand and wrist for nearly everything, lugging books and other stuff around with me every day probably wasn’t a smart idea back then. Not smart for my RA and joints, that is. But what else could I do? I was a 19-20 year-old college student and I was still figuring out how to cope with suddenly having a painful, chronic, incurable disease. I didn’t know what the heck I was doing. With anything.

My wrist pain was getting worse

So I carried on: going to classes, doing homework, taking my RA medications, staying in touch with my rheumatologist, carrying loads of books and a growing load of worries. As the months passed, the pain and swelling in my wrist grew worse and increasingly unbearable. I remember feeling panic and devastation at the thought of this pain never going away.

The flare-up I’m having right now immediately conjures up clear, strong memories of my former wrist troubles–shooting, stabbing, burning, intense, and intractable pain. I remember it was extremely difficult doing almost everything: getting dressed, taking a shower, fixing my hair, brushing my teeth, driving, carrying things, opening bottles and containers, cooking, shopping, opening doors and drawers, writing, typing, lifting, and even doing nothing with my hand or wrist. It hurt, severely, all the time–as it does right now.

Would surgery alleviate my wrist pain?

In the summer of 1999, my rheumatologist finally sent me to an orthopedic doctor who recommended arthroscopic surgery on my wrist–a synovectomy. But by this time, the RA inflammation had permanently ravaged my joint, eating away at the cartilage and bone. The surgery helped a little bit, but the damage was done. Post-surgery, I was left with a destroyed wrist and often excruciating pain, which forced me to wear an uncomfortable and ugly custom-made beige brace day and night. Without the brace, I literally could do nothing with my right hand and wrist.

A pleasant, welcomed surpise

Fast forward to circa 2004, when for some mysterious reason my wrist pain suddenly got better. A lot better. So much better that I was able to take off that disgusting brace and throw away all of my splints and wraps and braces. A MIRACLE! I was so happy and relieved by this development and my wrist remained significantly better from then onward. Over the years I would have a few minor flare-ups here and there, but nothing compared to my pre-surgery days and the 3-4 years of intense pain that followed. Until now. The debilitating, stabbing-shooting pain is back. And so is an ugly wrist brace.

Why is this major flare up happening again?

Of course the questions that keep going through my mind and tormenting me are: Why is this happening again? Why now? Why, why, why? There are no answers, of course. Only guesses. And this is one aspect of RA that’s so maddening: you never know what RA will do, when it will strike, and when/if a flare-up will go away.

How long will this last?

Understandably, I’m terrified that my wrist isn’t going to calm down and go back to “normal.” I keep panicking about this scenario, thinking, What if it doesn’t get better? What if it doesn’t go away? How can I live like this? I realize that I coped and lived with it last time, so many years ago, however, I was much younger then. But what choice do I have? I can’t chop my hand off, no matter how much I want to most days. Now I worry that I’m just too exhausted and worn-down to handle this again.

As I continue to wait for the prednisone to work its magic, and I wear this horrendous brace on my wrist, I’m trying to do other things that might help: taking my medications diligently, rest, ice packs, “clean” eating and sticking to my vegan diet. I don’t know what else to do, honestly. I just really, really, REALLY want this wrist to get better so I can get back to living my life.

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

Comments

  • peacefulpresents
    4 weeks ago

    It is always nice to read stories by others and remember I am not alone in grappling with the mysteries and challenges of RA pain. Although of course I wish no one had to experience this ever!

    I have foregone all Western medicine and am slowly but surely becoming healthier and having less pain over time. I have regained the ability to walk and use my arms after being bedridden and crippled, and inflammation and pain levels are typically improving.

    For me it almost entirely revolves around diet and stress levels. I also use Reiki and bring healing for my emotions also.

    I tried to be vegan out of concern for animals, but found beans and lentils triggered me. It was extremely difficult to live vegan without those staples. So I eat minimal, high-quality humanely treated meat and avoid factory farms (usually shop at farmer’s market each week).

    I discovered nightshades (potatoes, peppers, tomatoes, eggplant) and gluten both severely disabled me, and I have cut them out also.

    Then after over three years on elimination diet and being very careful with food, I had a crippling flare after eating a pineapple smoothie of all things. I am now learning foods with high histamine levels debilitate my body, and thus cutting them out. This explains why I also reacted to avocado and some other things.

    Also, I have been avoiding sugar to kill candida yeast, and I have had improvements in inflammation, energy, and pain levels after doing several rounds of herbal parasite cleanses.

    I am using acupressure and reflexology to discern which organ systems and meridiens are out of balance, and then seeking to restore balance using natural medicine.

    I am determined to find the root cause and heal it. The more careful I am with my diet, the better I feel. I notice the difference more also, because things that make me feel good are so much better than things that don’t. A bad dinner (with nightshades or other triggers) can mean I won’t be able to put on pants and use zippers the next morning. A string of good meals means I will feel strong and at ease.

    Through all this it is still so frustrating to have to handle pain and get through daily activities. But the bad crippling from the pineapple reminded me how bad I used to feel all the time, and made me realize how far I have come. I’ve been dealing with this for 7 years.

    It is all so mysterious. I hope we are all able to find things that work for us so we can have less pain and more fun. I suspect each individual has their own particular combination of food, lifestyle changes, and herbs that are best for them.

  • lindajumper
    4 weeks ago

    PS I’m also facing ankle surgery with basically the same problem as the hands! I’m a miserable wretch! I try to focus on others in my online support group, which many of you would benefit from. I’ve learned a lot and always have someone to get feedback from! (On FB.)

  • lindajumper
    4 weeks ago

    This is exactly my story! With some sad differences. Both hands are in braces. Thus many typos ha. The right one. Like yours, had surgery and then it was off and running to the RA diagnosis! Then other joint surgeries took precedence. This was a mere 6 yrs ago.
    I was told post OP I need LRTI surgery. (Harvesting of tendons to replace degenerated bone in base of thumb that they remove. Couldnt face it then. Had to do knees. So fast forward and suddenly the left hand is in abject agony. Both flaring 100% of time. Many broken things, cant zip, button, forget lids on anything, writing and hairspray, deodorant, etc…no go! So both need the same surgery. My right one quieted down like yours for awhile but the nature of RA is to slowly destroy joints. That’s what it’s doing. I’m ready to face those surgeries. I play piano! I have a grandbaby coming! I NEED MY HANDS!

  • kswanson555
    4 weeks ago

    Angela, Bless your heart! I think that having a chronic disease with wicked symptoms can be devastating! And I can relate to trying to go to college, fight the pain, loss of function and fatigue. I imagine there is some post traumatic stress issues when it comes roaring back!! I hope you get some relief soon! Dang this disease.

  • tutty
    4 weeks ago

    Hi Angela- you never know what your going to get with this horrible disease-I was first diagnosed on my 30th birthday 35 years ago- and by the time I was 32 i had both my wrist bone heads removed – so one is now fused and the other not great-apparently cut it off was the approach back then. But even though there are no ulnar heads in my wrists I still have flare ups and pain in the area – i totally relate some times you could cut them off – and putting your hands out into the public is very depressing but now I am finding my feet and ankles are not really capable of bearing my weight with 6 disc-located toes and eaten away ankles I am looking forward to it all being over – I am so lucky I have the most wonderful husband. All the best , Ann

  • Mishap
    1 month ago

    I resonate with ALL of this article, right down to the flare in my right wrist. Super painful. On prednisone. A bad bout of RA due to getting reactive arthritis after years of infection and three major surgeries. I’ve had it. Now, I have only one kidney and basically can’t take any RA meds except for prednisone. My body has suffered from taking years of high dose prednisone. And now I can’t even brush my teeth with my radio infested wrists and fingers. Hard to enjoy the season! Hoping your flare and mine subside quickly!

  • SusieO
    1 month ago

    So sorry that wrist is tormenting you again. I also have tons of pain in my left (dominant) wrist. I wear a number of different braces depending on the type of pain, severity, if I will be hefting and toting, cleaning and all kinds of other things I am not supposed to do. Hey, RA can absolutely kick my ass, but I’m going to fight that “B” til my last breath. Yes, I pay in pain and ugly braces, but I just have to look at risk vs reward, or just plain necessity. If I don’t do it, it’s not getting done. I do not have the money to hire jobs done and probably wouldn’t have someone else do it if I could afford it. It helps to be stubborn when you have RA.
    Good luck to you and here’s hoping that wrist pain goes as quickly as it came and with lots less aggravation.

  • Lawrence 'rick' Phillips moderator
    4 weeks ago

    SusieO, I agree about being stubborn. I am seriously stubborn when it comes to RA.

    OK, OK, my wife says I am stubborn when it comes to most things, but of course after 42 years of marriage what does she know about me?

    Take care, and i hope your wrist feels better soon.

    Be Stubborn – embrace the streak !!

    rick – moderator

  • conuoha
    1 month ago

    Completely, understand what you’re going through. After 7 or so years of taking Humira it decided to stop working and for the past year I have been in complete pain. I have gone through several Biologics and DMARDs which have failed to work or provide any relief. Although I am currently going through crazy wrist pain that seems jump from left wrist to right every so often; your situation reminds me of my knee that has taken a beating from the RA. I’ve lost a lot of mobility within it, muscle mass in my legs and the pain can be unbearable at times. I’ve tried Physical Therapy which was a waste and I’m pretty much nursing it and doing what I can to preserve it. My previous Rheumatologist disregarded it when I initially felt something was wrong and over time it led me to requesting my own MRI which turned out that I had a thinning ACL and tear in my Meniscus from slip and falling from this unstable knee. At this point I’m just struggling to stay positive and optimistic. My previous Rheumatologist prove to not show much concern or knowledge and I have since switched to a new Doctor that I am confident in. Through his thoroughness it was found that I had other issues present from an abnormal chest X-ray and CT; something my older doctor never requested over the 8yrs I was with her. I am thankful my new rheumatologist is precautious and understands the risk of the medications and patient that is not 100% healthy to receive them. In conclusion, just know you aren’t alone and it’s an uphill battle to conquer RA.

  • kimbarum
    1 month ago

    I’m sorry for your pain Angela. I’ve had RA for about 4 years. I just had a blood test and it came back fine. No bad results pointing to RA. But I’ve had pain in my left wrist for the last 3 weeks. I too have taken some Prednisone on the worse days but it still makes me wonder why do my test results came back fine but I have pain? My rheumatologist says I may have some fibromyalgia also. My joints have never really hurt. Only my muscles and nerve pain. This disease has been around for a while. Why can’t it be better diagnosed? How can they see markers that point to RA yet it goes away and you suffer side effects on drugs you’re taking that your body doesn’t need? Sorry, I guess I have questions also. Here’s hoping your pain goes away and you don’t need any more surgeries.

  • Lawrence 'rick' Phillips moderator
    4 weeks ago

    Kimbarum:

    I am not certain there are good answers to any of those questions. I know for me RA has always been a guess and hope sort of condition. Much like hide and seek my pain seems to show up and run away at the worst possible moments.

    I do keep discussing my various issues with my doctor and each time I feel I am not getting anywhere I go back. I love my doctor but RA treats him as poorly as it treats me.

    I wish you the very best and above all keep trying. Having the best outcome is a partnership between patient and doctor. In my case that partnership has to include the open communication.

    i hope you feel better very soon.

    rick – Moderator

  • anniepooh
    1 month ago

    Do you really feel that being on a vegan diet helped your RA.

  • Franki King moderator
    1 month ago

    Great question, @anniepooh. I can’t speak for Angela but I have been on a vegan diet for the last 6 months and I believe it does wonders for my RA. I am using the same medication that I have been on for the past 4 years, which I know plays a major part in my pain relief, but before going vegan I would still get major flare-ups every once in a while. After going veg in the summer, I can say with confidence that I have not had a bad flare-up. I think if I stopped drinking alcohol it would be even more significant. I know this diet might not be for everyone but I would suggest trying it or at least cutting down on meat and dairy. It’s worth a shot! Wishing you the best, Franki (RheumatoidArthritis.net Team)

  • derekatesmom
    1 month ago

    This came to my notice at the right time. I am sitting with an ice pack on my right wrist. Typing with my non dominant fingers (carefully watching for typos). I am 13 years into RA (8 post diagnosis) and really thought medication would balance it out and am frustrated that it is not the case

  • Mishap
    1 month ago

    I’ve been dealing with Stills Disease and now RA since I was 19. I’m 57 now. I was fine during my two pregnancies. But that’s been the only non RA times. Some lesser flares. Big time now.

  • Dmcclellan2
    1 month ago

    I have this chronic condition for four years. Believe I know because both of my knees have had the same problems. I know I wear two braces and I’m looking at surgery options to replace my knees.

  • WarriorKhalo
    1 month ago

    I read somewhere that living with RA is like living with an unending series of losses. I too have had RA since college(I’m 57 now), but it doesn’t really get any easier, does it? But, we have no choice but to cope and soldier on.I hope you wrist flare is mercifully short!

  • Cynthia Ventura moderator
    1 month ago

    I’m so sorry Angela for the pain and the worry. It is so frustrating to have to deal with issues you thought were in the past that come roaring back to life. Knowing why can be helpful to preventing future flares but not knowing is all too common with RA. RA is a lot like mean people, it attacks this way just because it can. I will keep you in my prayers that this pain stops even if you never find out why it began again. Gentle Hugs

  • Lawrence 'rick' Phillips moderator
    1 month ago

    I hope it does Angela. I cannot imagine the ongoing pain. I hope this gets much better quicker.

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