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Pokes, Picks, Jabs and Squeezes.

While sitting comfortably in a booth with my wife at our favorite local Mexican restaurant for a Saturday evening dinner out, enjoying some corn chips dipped in a somewhat spicy salsa, it hit me. What did it, you ask? Well I am not sure what it is called but it went something like this.

A sharp and sudden pain located on the outside of and just below my left ankle. It wasn’t that it hurt bad, or was even located to a large area, just one little spot. But it was strong and sudden enough to make me flinch so that my wife noticed and asked, “What, again? I just replied with “Yep” and reached for another corn chip.

I am sure that it is RA related. I have mentioned these occurrences to my rheumatologist during my last appointment and basically his reply, put into the best way that I can sum it up “That is just RA letting you know it is still there and it is not giving up.” He recommended trying to adjust when I take my meds to see if it helps. It has something to do with getting the full affect from the methotrexate by how the body absorbs it. He asked me to get back to him if these pains continue.

Types of RA pain

I seem to have these types of happenings throughout the day but not all of them will make me jump or cringe. So I have made a list to best describe the range of how these little gremlin (or ghost) attacks feel on my body.

Let’s start with pokes.

These seem to mostly happen when I have time to relax a bit and notice them. You could miss these if you are more focused on the day’s tasks or you are moving around. These are like placing your index finger near, but not directly on a joint, pushing in slightly but deeply, for a count of one second and pulling away. It happens so fast that I am unable to locate the exact point where it felt like it happened, just the roundabout area. When you feel it, you almost want to look to see if there was something that just brushed by you.

Next, there are picks.

The best way to describe these would be the loose hair clippings under your shirt collar right after a haircut or that plastic thing that holds tags to new clothing that you cut off but did not get it all. When it happens you almost always grab the area and pull on the clothing, rub or scratch the area. You never find anything, but you know it did happen. As to locating the exact area, this is a little easier, but not exact, as the feeling of the pick hangs around for only 10 or 15 seconds before vanishing.

Now, what about those jabs?

These things are what I described above while waiting for my chimichanga and refried beans. These to me are the most surprising. When it happens you almost expect to see a syringe sticking out of you. These jabs can come on anytime, anyplace while sitting or walking and my normal reaction is to flinch and sometimes to let out a soft gasp of surprise. Jabs hit hard and fast, the sharpness of the pain lasts only a moment but can take a minute or two to fade away onto nothing. With jabs, you can feel around and place a finger over the spot of impact but there is nothing to feel other than what is supposed to be there.

Pokes, Picks and Jabs seem to only happen around or near a joint and seem to not be located in or at the joint. These don’t happen in the middle of a muscle or even around the spare tire area.

And last, I have the squeezes.

These are not the loving kind you get or give while holding hands with your special person or the hug a child receives from a grandmother. No, these are nothing like that. These nasty little beasts mostly happen to me in my toes, fingers and sometimes on the sides of my ankles. I would describe these as a slow and deliberate procedure used by the head guard in a mid-evil prison to get me to confess to being a sorcerer. Well not quite that bad, but you get the idea. The pain is like having your toe slowly squeezed from every direction and wrapped up tight in thick tape. You can hardly move it and it hurts just enough to mess up walking normally. This squeezing feeling lasts for 5 maybe 10 minutes tops, but the after effects of stiffness and tenderness can stick around for several hours after. It is strange to only have one toe feel like this when all the others are A-OK.

I will soon be visiting my doctor about these little issues and will hopefully have some kind of game plan that will chase away most of these demons currently playing tag with my joints and sanity.

So, speak up and tell us what types of little gremlins and ghosts you have been chasing around in your fight against RA?

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.


  • NPEOttawa
    2 months ago

    I identify with the “jabs” for sure – I call them stabbings. They make me flinch but differently from you, it’s usually accompanied not by a soft moan, but with a loud expletive.

  • running2live
    2 years ago

    I’m still waiting on diagnosis, so I’m just starting this journey and stumbled on to this post. I’m still not completely convinced I have RA, but reading this really helped me see a few things clearer. My question is, do you push through these things or do you need to give in To it and rest. Thank you putting this out there.

  • Eebtool author
    2 years ago

    Running2live, thanks for reading. Most days I just make a note to self that something is up and keep a watchful eye on things. Not much more is needed. Some days I need to make a change for the rest of the day ( or week). Like you might be aware, some times I need to tell myself, Nope, no run tonight after work.
    As with running, RA is a thing that you will need to keep an eye on how your whole body is doing, the plan for the days events may need to be adjusted and you will have to review what will happen tomorrow when it gets here.
    Pushing through things is a thing that you will need to see what works for you. Yesterday it seemed like a good idea will happen to you a lot before you get the new normal worked you for you.
    Good luck on your diagnosis and I hope your need for running stays with you a long time.

  • judy_c
    2 years ago

    I love your article! I was nodding throughout the entire thing – thinking, OMG I thought this was all in my head but someone else has these things too! 🙂 Thanks so much for sharing.

  • Connie Rifenburg
    2 years ago

    After reading your attack descriptions, I could relate to similar ‘attacks’ I’ve felt but I noticed one wasn’t in your list…. BURN. A sudden burning sensation on the top of my foot . I’ve had it on both feet, but more times on the right foot than the left. I jump when it happens it’s so sudden and painful.

    I fall for it every time by looking down to see what it was that just stuck or burned me… only to see nothing. But some time later (and it varies) an almost perfect circle will appear where the burning was. It’s sore to the touch like a bruise, but goes away in a day or so. I haven’t heard anyone mention it around here, but I wondered if others had that sudden ‘burn’.

    I have RLS pretty bad and I have attributed it more to the RLS than the RA, because it isn’t on a particular joint, but almost on the skin. Like touching something hot and wanting to pull away. I haven’t mentioned it to my RA Dr. but I notice I have it more when I have a bad stretch of RLS for a week or so. (ofcourse —not always) I take a pill for the RLS and it controls it some. It is the same pill they give for Parkinson’s disease. I was taking Klonipin for it and it was great until I learned it was a strong narcotic and difficult for some people to get off. So I began to wean myself off it immediately and was able to transfer to just the Pramipexsole .25mg in the evening but it doesn’t work as well.

    Does anyone else have RLS with their RA? As my muscles and tendons have begun to waste, I notice that the RLS seems to get worse. I can take the meds twice a day, but I hate to do because a side effect is sleepiness.

    Thanks for sharing your laundry list of those strange little things that get us at times. It helps to know that others can relate to what we sometimes think of as “just me”. 🙂

    Glad to hear that the up on the Methotrexate has helped. Sadly, I had a severe reaction to it after taking it for almost 10 yrs and so it’s on the no-no list for me now.


  • Leena
    2 months ago

    Connie, both my mom and I have RLS, RA, and Fibromyalgia. I also have Inflammatory Arthritis. My mom and I both suffer with burning sensations as well as “twinges”. My burn used to feel like the worst case of sun poisoning I ever had. My husband couldn’t touch me when it flared or I’d unknowingly pull away, making him feel unwanted and even vile at times. (Needless to say that we’re now divorced and I am since remarried to a man who understood what he was getting from the start and lives and supports me anyway.) I don’t have those days as much anymore.

    When I was first diagnosed with RA I also suffered with this sharp stabbing sensation in my wrists. I felt like I was being crucified as the pain immobilized my fingers as well. Now that the RA has progressed and is throughout my entire body, I awake every morning to the sensation of being staked to my hospital bed through my lower back, hips, shoulders, and elbows with my wrists usually crossed over my chest and staked through it. I usually manage to turn on my audio player to continue listening to a book (I’m also legally blind) until I can, God willing, fall back asleep and hopefully wake up in less pain. If not, medical mj, tramadol, and flexeril are used to keep me knocked out for the day if the pain becomes intolerable.

    I will close with this thought… EVERY time I feel the “stake” sensations through my wrists I am reminded of how Jesus felt on the cross. While he didn’t suffer from an autoimmune condition, he was tortured and beaten for my sins and he still kept his eyes faithfully on his father, God. I try my best to do the same. So no matter how bad I hurt, how bad my pain is, I have an example to help keep my mind focused on God who loves me and can help me through every moment as I hopefully live this testimony for Him.

    Be blessed everyone!

  • judy_c
    2 years ago

    I have had RLS for years…. isn’t it just the worst??! Unfortunately, I couldn’t take the first 2 drugs of choice for treatment, despite trying for months (pramipexole and Requip) because of side effects. Have been taking the klonopin for a long time and it manages it well, as you know. I am just conscious to be sure the dose doesn’t increase over time. HOWEVER, the day is coming where I might have to wean off, according to my doctor, so just hoping they will come out with something new before then to treat RLS. I totally get why you didn’t want to stay on it due to the potential addicting properties. Best wishes to you in living with both those conditions–it’s a challenge. And despite what people may say, sleeping with a bar of soap under the sheets just didn’t help, and while essential oils smell amazing and I love them, they didn’t really do a thing for the RLS either. 🙂 Judy

  • Eebtool author
    2 years ago

    Thanks Connie for reading and sharing.
    I wish for you and many others that a short of strange little things was the extent of having an autoimmune disease. Sometimes it is the little things, that often get lost in the shadows of the big stuff, that can offer up some of the biggest clues as to how things are going.
    As for the “Burn” that you experience, I have never taunted with that one yet. When it happens to you is there a trick that you use to help ease the discomfort after?
    Now I do not know your conditions or can I offer medical advise as this is just what I know. I have relatives who also suffer a little with RLS and when they get regular exercise, especially walking and swimming poor exercise classes, they say things are not as bad. But they are older and exercise is a lot for them and opens a different list of issues.
    I still think I have ghosts in my house who are just messing with me for fun.

  • Kelly Dabel moderator
    2 years ago

    Hi Connie, Thank you for sharing your story and reaching out. You are not alone here and I’m glad to hear that this article resonated with you and reminded you of that. Sounds like you are planning to mention your symptoms to your doctor and that’s a good plan. Anytime you are having any new, changing or concerning symptoms, touch base with your doctor. In addition to speaking with your doctor, this article may be helpful to you; Written by one of our contributors on her experience with varied RA symptoms, including burning sensation:

    Sorry that your RLS symptoms are worsening. This article describes how RA impacts more than just bones and joints:

    I hope those are helpful to you and that you and your doctor can discuss and adjust your treatment plan as needed to bring you some relief. Thank you for being part of our community. Kelly, Team Member

  • Eebtool author
    2 years ago

    Hello everyone, just checking in with an update.
    With a quick visit to my rheumatologist a few days after submitting the original story, Dr. G increased my methotrexate from 6 to 7 pills a week.
    Today these pesky ghosts are almost completely not happening. So cool, right!

  • Kelly Dabel moderator
    2 years ago

    Such great news that you are feeling better Eebtool! Thank you for sharing and for the update. Wishing you continued relief. Kelly, Team Member

  • Tamara Haag moderator
    2 years ago

    Thanks so much for this excellent description of the various kinds of pain that you experience with RA. Of course I wish that you weren’t so well-versed in the assorted shades of pain, but since you do have to contend with this I really appreciate you sharing with our community, as I’m sure many of us relate.

    I’m not sure if your pains are always located in your joints, but in case they aren’t, and because you’re asking your doctor about them, I thought this article on RA-related nerve pain might be of interest to you just in case it is pertinent:

    Thanks again for sharing your vivid, descriptive depiction of life with RA, and for being part of our online community!

    Wishing you all the best,

  • Eebtool author
    2 years ago

    Thanks for the nice words.
    These strange happenings seem to be located just around the joints, so at this time I hope it’s nothing like what is described in the article you linked for me. I would rather live with a ghost of long gone loved one than with a nerve issue.

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