How My Life Fell Apart and How I’m Still Putting It Back Together

Ok so this is probably going to be a fairly long post but I don’t do that often so please excuse me this one time. What I’m about to talk is something very few people know about me and what happened in the fall. Last year was hard enough but in October, I felt like I just lost it. I had a mental breakdown that resulted in severe depression and anxiety. I was put into an Intensive Outpatient Program which, as some of you might know, is one step below inpatient psychiatric care. I managed to hide it from most people, really my amazing boyfriend is the only one who knew. He supported my search for help and did whatever he could to take care of me. I really do have one of the best boyfriends ever. So here’s a little bit about what happened.

I went to the ER in Sept. with stomach pain and some other issues. I was told they found what they thought was a cyst on my right ovary and fluid in my pelvis that they assumed was from a ruptured cyst. They said it was completely unrelated to my other symptoms and sent me home. Apparently, the two were not unrelated. In October, the 4th to be exact, I went for my GI follow up for my stomach. He didn’t think anything that needed urgent care was required so I went home. Thank god Scott was there because I sudden;y started getting this pain that just got worse and worse. Eventually I was literally screaming in pain every time he moved me. Off to the ER we went. After a whole big fiasco there that I won’t go into, I was finally taken back. I was told that I was about 2 months pregnant and that it was an ectopic that had ruptured. I would need emergency surgery and there was no guarantee they would be able to save my fallopian tube. Turns out that spot the first ER thought was a cyst? It wasn’t, it was an ectopic that could have been taken care of with medication had they realized what it was. Instead I had internal bleeding and one less tube.

For anyone who knows me, you all know how much I want kids. I’ve always wanted to be a mom. This was a huge blow for me. Just imagine wanting something so much and being told you have it only to have it ripped away within 10 seconds. It’s not that surprising that I was depressed after the fact but how deep that depression was is surprising. I literally woke up and went to work, came home and fell asleep, and when Scott got home he woke me up and forced me to eat and take my meds. I cried a lot. I didn’t want to do anything or see anyone. I didn’t even have the energy to turn the TV on half the time. Work was extremely difficult and it was taking me longer to finish normal tasks. Finally, after a month we decided I needed professional help. And so started my journey back to normalcy. I hid therapy from everyone, I didn’t want anyone thinking I was weak or overreacting. I have this immense fear of people thinking I’m overreacting (that would be why we didn’t take the ambulance that day….very stupid decision on my part). I’m still working on it but I’m much better than I was.

Depression and anxiety are very real and very hard. It takes a toll physically as well as mentally. Don’t let the fear of people judging you ever stop you from getting help before it gets too late. God knows how much worse I would have gotten without getting help. Also, just in case this happens to a friend just keep the following in mind – I know that you’re worried but for the love of all that is holy DO NOT YELL AT YOUR FRIEND! Don’t yell at them, don’t tell them what they should have done, don’t say anything at all negative. Hearing that does NOT help, it just makes things worse and makes me (or whoever) shut down even more. I know I completely retreated inside myself and that led me to not tell anyone or let anyone else know that something was wrong. Not even some of my closest friends.

Slowly but surely I’m getting better and I know I’ll be a mom someday. It wasn’t meant to be that time. I’m still working on believing that but I feel that I’ve come a long way in getting back to where I used to be and I bet all of you can as well. As always, feel free to contact me if you ever need someone to talk to!

Danielle

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Published in: on February 1, 2014 at 7:55 pm  Comments (2)  
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Some Friendly Advice for Loved Ones and Friends

First things first, everyone should buy one of these awesome shirts!

Hope to fight against lupus

Our Awesome Hope Shirt!

The profits will be go to my Walk for Lupus Now Team, Frickin’ Rican Lupies, and that will be donated to the Lupus Foundation of America Piedmont Chapter. For a donation, go here: http://walkforlupusnow.kintera.org/raleigh/danipinol?faf=1&e=5572260654 $20 will get you a shirt, just email me or FB message me the size! Thanks in advance!

Okay, now, this post is certainly not meant to offend anyone but it is something that should be said. We all have our support systems and those systems consist of people we love. The hard part about being there and taking care of someone is seeing what they go through and not being able to stop it. Because the supporters (this includes us lupies, we’re not just the ones being supported) are so frustrated and usually do not know how to help, they sometimes say things that really just don’t make us feel better. It’s certainly not their intention to make us feel bad. I’m pretty sure I’m guilty of some of the “don’ts” I’m about to write about. But how will they know these things if we don’t tell them and explain why something makes us feel bad? Or the opposite: how will they know what really helps us out if we don’t tell them that either? This list is not all inclusive, not even close, but I hope it will start people thinking about what they do and what they can do to help those in pain.

1. DON’T tell us not to take a medication, to take it “only if you REALLY need it,” or explain to us all the ways it’s bad for us. For the most part, we usually know what the side effects are and what the medication does. Most of us have been on them for years so we may know a little better what to take and what not take. Where this really comes in is pain meds. Yes sometimes doctors give us prescription pain killers or muscle relaxers or whatever. We are not getting these just for fun, if the doctor has given them then we are in a whole lot of pain. Over the counter hasn’t worked. Most of don’t take them everyday but we take them when we need them. We know narcotics are addictive and people do take them just to get high but we don’t. Please don’t lecture us about it and make us feel bad. All that happens is we decide not to take and sit in excruciating pain all day trying to hide it from you. Also, don’t make comments about how the country is over medicated and no one needs these drugs (this comes from a friend’s ex-boyfriend). Especially after you know how many we take a day. This just makes us feel awkward, then annoyed, then angry. And then you get broken up with.

2. DO offer to do little things around the house. I have an extremely difficult time doing certain things around my house like scrubbing the tub and changing the bed sheets. Obviously I do them but it takes me twice as long. If you’re not busy, why not help your friend out by doing one of these things? Or maybe ask if they need something from the store like milk if you happen to be going there. Chopping food is another one, a lot of us have trouble with our hands and having someone else chop makes it so we can all have a lot more laughter at the dinner table.

3. On that note, DON’T force your help on us. If you offer, that’s fine and a lot of us will take you up on it. However, please don’t assume I need you to do every single thing for me. It drives me insane! If I can’t do something I’ll ask for help. But I don’t want to feel like I can’t do anything and I know a few people who are like this. You have to encourage us to be independent. Part of that is letting us do the things we can and ask for help on our own for the things we can’t.

4. DO invite us out to different activities! It’s really not fun always feeling left out or only being invited to go see a movie all the time. Don’t get me wrong, movies are great, but if you’re planning a picnic, or a beach trip, or even a hike and invite everyone else, don’t exclude us! Sometimes, you think it’s just easier on everyone if you don’t invite the person with joint problems – you think you’re saving them from the embarrassment of saying they can’t. Honestly, it hurts us worse to find out later that we were left out than it does to actually be invited and get to say we can’t go ourselves. And sometimes we are up for going. Sure we might need a couple of extra breaks but that doesn’t mean we can’t go and enjoy ourselves!

5. DON’T ask us about certain things and them yell at us! Oh man, I can’t tell you how often we do this in my family. Between my mom, my sister, and I, I don’t know how we don’t drive my very mellow, level-head dad insane. None of us really know how to handle the stress that comes with worry or bad health news so what do we do? We all yell at each other. “Well you should do this, and not this!” “I don’t want to do this or I would have done it already!” And many much more colorful things come out of our mouths. Don’t do this. Please. It solves nothing. It makes us even more stressed out which just makes us even more sick. If you don’t think you can say something without screaming at the person, then just say ok. Or even “That sucks!” Seriously, sometimes that’s all we really want to hear.

6. DO remember that what you do right now for us is and will always be enough. It’s hard loving someone who is sick. It takes a toll on the whole family. I can only imagine how my parents, sister, and brother feel every I call them to say something else is wrong. There is a need to do more, to take all the bad stuff away. Please, PLEASE believe me when I say that you just being there is enough. Knowing that we have this support system to fall back on gets us through so much more than you’ll ever know.

My wonderful family

Okay so not the best pictures because most of us are in PJs but this is my absolutely wonderful family who I have NO idea how I'd get along without!
Left to Right: Pop, me, Jon, Abuela, Mami, and Jolene

Published in: on March 28, 2012 at 5:42 pm  Comments (2)  

Photographic Therapy

Okay so life has gotten a bit overwhelming and this post might seem somewhat scatterbrained because I can’t quite figure out what to write about. I have several topics in mind but I’ll start with a little bit of mental health – the other topics will just have to wait until another post.

A few weeks ago, my boyfriend and I broke up in a hell of a way — lots of drama. Here’s the thing about me when bad stuff happens, I slide along a scale or different levels of depression.

0. Get pissed, maybe cry once, back onto normal life.
1. Still smiles, still laughs, goes out like nothing is wrong, all while feeling the exact opposite of what I’m showing
2. Cries a whole lot, eats junk food, watches cheesy movies, constantly talks to everyone.
3. Hides in the bedroom, under the covers, cries, doesn’t eat, doesn’t talk to anyone, internalizes every thing
4. No longer enjoys anything at all in the entire world, wants nothing but to sleep and never emerge from the house again.

Bad break-ups, when coupled with health issues I’m having at the time, usually leave me around a 3 or 4. This time, even though I was heartbroken, I was determined not to let it get to that point again. As part of that attempt, I picked my camera back up – something I hadn’t done in I don’t know how long – and started taking self-portraits. My goal? Remember, and photograph creatively, those things that make me happy in life and make me…well…me! I only did it for a week before I had family visit and totally forgot about it but that week made me feel so much better. Not only did it get my mind off of the misery I was feeling, but it made me remember what makes me happy. Sometimes they were silly, sometimes thoughtful…but they were always just me.

I wish I could put the pictures in from my iPad but unfortunately I can’t so I’ll edit the post later from my computer and add some of them. I had so much fun doing these pictures that I plan on doing them for a whole month – hopefully the end product will be a photograph for everyday. And every time I look at them, all the memories that are part of me will come back. And I’ll smile.

I recommend everyone do a project like this, I really do. Even if it’s just with your camera phone – it really does get your mind off everything bad that’s happening. The girl in the photographs has no worries – she is confident, silly, beautiful, funny, and a million other things. She is not heartbroken and not sick. This project will remind you of the small moments that make life fun and it boosts your self-confidence (really, who doesn’t need that extra boost once in a while?).

If you do try it, please let me know! Message me, email me, comment, whatever. I’d love to sell all of your beautiful faces 🙂

Edit: Here are a few of the photos I took, I hope you enjoy!

Parisian Style

Just because I have to wear a hat doesn't mean it can't be stylish

Just me

Just little old me, plain and simple

Sillyness!

Gotta have my spa days!

Published in: on February 29, 2012 at 11:52 am  Comments (1)  
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Gluten Free Living

So my family and I decided I’d try going gluten-free after having so many stomach issues over the last few months. What I’ve learned so far? 1) It’s really hard when your favorite foods are cake, cookies, and bread. 2) It’s really hard to gain weight on a gluten free diet. 3) After a week or two of no gluten, any at all makes me horribly sick.

It’s not all bad though, I’m definitely learning how to manage my meals. Gluten-free food is expensive so I’m learning to use recipes that don’t require a whole of extra things like gluten free flour, noodles, stuff like that. I have to say it’s much easier thanks to two of my dad’s colleagues. They were amazing and made me this giant gluten-free binder shown below. It has tons of recipes and substitutions. It also has a list of brands and what they make that’s gluten-free. The sub list and brand list have come in especially helpful already and I can’t wait to try the recipes! Thank you so much Shannon Gaffey and Eileen Nunamacher! I appreciate your time and effort in helping me with this rather dramatic change in lifestyle and it means a lot to know there are people like you out there willing to help! I will post later this week the scrumptious recipes I made (most took just a few minutes) all week. Right now, I’m off to prepare for court, wish me luck!

Gluten-Free Recipes!

And a stack of GF recipes!

A huge list of substitutions and brand names

A huge list of substitutions and brand name

Published in: on January 29, 2012 at 3:59 pm  Comments (2)  

Happy New Year!

I know, I’ve been slacking again. But finals are over and I’m rested up and ready to go. I’m heading back to North Carolina and thought I’d share some things about making the ride easier.

  • Don’t drive alone if possible. If you can bring a friend or boyfriend or family member to help you drive, it’ll be a lot easier. Move as much as possible while not driving.
  • If you’re driving alone, take frequent breaks. Every hour or two, take a five minute rest stop. It’ll take longer to get to your destination but your body won’t be screaming at you when you get there.
  • During long plane rides get up and move. Flying to Australia, my doctor told me to get up every few hours and walk up and down the aisles. It helps with circulation and preventing blood clots. It also keeps your joints moving so they don’t get quite as stiff.
  • Sleep. If you’re feeling sick, try to sleep part of the trip. It helps with car sickness and makes the ride go quicker.
  • Bring snacks and lots of water. Keep hydrated, especially on planes and always eat. No eating = no energy later in the day. You’re already going to be exhausted, don’t add to it by not eating and drinking.
  • Finally, bring more than one thing to do! Bring books, puzzles, video games, whatever you like to do. You’ll always have a choice if you get bored and it’ll help time move faster!

I know this is a short and quick post. And most of it’s common sense but really..I’m always surprised at what people forget!

 

PS: What are your new year’s resolutions? I’d really like to know!

Published in: on January 1, 2012 at 8:46 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Looks Can Be Deceiving”

This article is from Invisible Disability Advocates and is so true.

http://www.invisibledisabilities.org/educate/invisibleawareness/lookscanbedeceiving/

If you have a handicap placard, how often have you gotten dirty looks getting out of your car? It always makes me so angry when people try and stare me down. I just wish they would actually say something to me…they’d be walking away with their tail between their legs!

Published in: on December 13, 2011 at 5:16 pm  Comments (1)  
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A fabulous feast

I know posts have been getting farther apart and I apologize for that, my health has just been taking hit after hit. That along with getting ready for finals has left very little time for me to write. Even though it’s a little late, I thought I’d share the recipes I used on Thanksgiving this year. It was the first year I cooked almost the entire feast by myself so I found/created some recipes that were easy to do even with the extreme fatigue and achy joints I had. Most of them can be made by just washing/rinsing one mixing bowl and using that over and over. It makes for a much easier clean up. My plan is to use them year round because they can easily be transferred to other meats and veggies and I hope you enjoy them!

Thanksgiving Dinner

The end result

Slow Cooked Turkey Breast

This is one I’m hoping to try on either a roast chicken or chicken breasts soon. I also think it’ll go really well on certain fish like salmon and maybe flounder. This is made in a slow cooker (if it wasn’t obvious by the title haha) which is an amazing piece of kitchen equipment all lupies – and people short on time – should have.

Ingredients

  • 1 whole bone-in turkey breast, about 6 pounds
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh or dried rosemary leaves
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh or dried thyme leaves
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt (or less if you’re on prednisone of course)
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 can chicken broth (or any broth you’d like)
  • Mixed chopped veggies – frozen or fresh (optional)
  1. Mix all the dry herbs together. Stir in olive oil and lemon juice until it makes a paste. Using your fingers, rub the mixture under the skin of the turkey as much as you can. Take the rest and rub it on the outside. I suggest doing this part the night before, putting the turkey in the removable pot and covering it with foil in the fridge but you don’t have too.
  2. The next morning, put the turkey in the slow cooker and slowly pour the can broth in around it. Throw in some chopped veggies. (If they’re fresh they can be chopped the night before, if frozen just toss as many as you’d like in for extra flavor.) Set it on high for 1 hour then low for 6-7 hours until fully cooked. I read that for chicken it’s 1 hour on high and 8-9 hours on low. A meat thermometer is always helpful.
  3. Take out, carve and serve! Mixing some of the stock in with canned gravy makes a quick and delicious topping. 🙂

Lemon Garlicky Spinach

This can be done with any veggies you like, the ones I used just happened to be what we eat most often.

Ingredients

  • Fresh or frozen spinach (1 bag or bundle)
  • Half a red pepper (roasted red peppers are very good too)
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 2-3 tablespoons white onion
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  1. Wash and chop the spinach or if it’s frozen set aside.
  2. Chop the red pepper, onion, and garlic. Mix together.
  3. Heat the olive oil in a pan on low for 2-3 minutes, toss the spinach in. If it’s frozen be careful it doesn’t pop and splatter on you. Cook the spinach for 2-3 minutes.
  4. Toss in the rest of the veggies and cook until everything is tender. It took me about 10-15 minutes.
  5. Serve hot and add salt and pepper to taste!

Mashed Sweet Potatoes

This one is slightly hard to make and is easier if you have someone help with the peeling. My boyfriend peeled and chopped the potatoes for me.

Ingredients

  • 2-3 medium sweet potatoes
  • 1/4 cup sour cream (or 1/4 cup milk and about 1 tablespoon of butter)
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Set a pot of water boiling.
  2. Peel, wash, and chop the sweet potatoes into cubes.
  3. Put in boiling water for about 40-50 minutes until soft.
  4. Drain and pour in a mixing bowl. With an electric hand mixer, mix in the sour cream and garlic powder until smooth. You can substitute milk and butter for sour cream as well and add more or less garlic if you’d like.
  5. Serve with gravy and voilà!

Easy Oreo Pie

I’m pretty sure I learned this when I was little and it’s the easiest pie ever to make. It’s become a Thanksgiving tradition but it’s definitely good all year round. I also use the same bowl which makes much less of a mess.

Easy Oreo Pie

Doesn't it look yummy?

Ingredients

  • Chocolate pie crust, Oreo is the best kind
  • 1 box Jello Vanilla Pudding
  • 1 box Jello Fudge Pudding
  • 4 cups of milk
  • 1 package cool whip
  • 4-5 Oreos
  1. In a mixing bowl, make Vanilla Jello first with 2 cups cold milk (use package instructions basically). Whisk until it’s slightly thickened. Pour into the crust until it comes slightly up over the mid-line. Pour the rest in a tupperware for a treat later. Let sit for 5 minutes.
  2. In the same bowl, make the Fudge Jello with 2 cups cold milk. Whisk until slightly thickened and pour evenly over the vanilla pudding. Pour the rest into another tupperware.
  3. Place plastic lid back over the pie and place in the fridge for 2 hours.
  4. Take out and cover evenly with a layer of Cool Whip or your favorite whipped cream.
  5. Place 4-5 oreos in a plastic bag and smash them either with your hands or something like a jar. Since my hands bother me, when I do it I use a jar of olives.
  6. Sprinkle oreo crumbles on top and enjoy!

Bread and Stuffing

Making bread by hand is extremely difficult in the first place and even harder when your hands don’t have much strength left or hurt. This year, I bought a 1 hour bread mix – Herb Bread – and it came out great! Same with stuffing, good old Stove Top works and keeps you wearing yourself out.

That was my entire Thanksgiving meal and it came out fabulous if I do say so myself haha. At the end of the day, I wasn’t completely exhausted and was able to have a fun night. Let me know how these work out for you guys!

Published in: on December 1, 2011 at 9:48 pm  Comments (3)  
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Why do they stick around?

This post is going to be slightly different because it just happened to be something I was thinking about the other day. Sometimes when bad things happen with my health, I feel like a horrible friend/sister/daughter/girlfriend because I feel as though all I do is put through hell all those close to me. When things happen, they’re these huge things that just cause everyone stress and worry and concern and I just don’t like being the cause of it – I’m sure that’s the way most of us feel.

So I was thinking “what makes people want to stay with me?” It might sound like a selfish question – and it probably is – but growing up with a chronic illness or other disability can make your self-image drop. Sometimes you need to step back and ask that question so that you can see just what you’re worth.

Kingda-Ka

This is what my life is like sometimes!

My answer was that I’m loving and forgiving and I will sit and listen patiently to any problem you might have. I try my best to be there when you’re sick and scared and need a hand to hold or when you’re sad and need a good laugh. When you build any kind of relationship with me, you’re in for a roller-coaster ride. Those drops? They can be huge and scary and heart-attack inducing but they make the endings and the rest of the ride that much better. When the good things in life happen, I feel like I appreciate them 10 times more and I believe (or hope) I pass that mind-set on to those around me. With me, there is always something to look forward too, even when you feel like the drop is never going to end. These are the reasons why, I believe, I’m worth being around. I’m worth having a relationship with and whenever I feel otherwise, I think of what I’ve given to those around me and especially what they’ve given me back. Not only do I feel better about myself, but I feel blessed to have them all in my life.

Published in: on November 10, 2011 at 11:35 am  Comments (1)  
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I’m baaaccckkk! (said in a sing songy voice)

Hi everyone!

I know it’s been a while but I’m finally back and ready to go! Well, kind of ready to go. Ready to be ready to go is more appropriate. I just responded to a ton of comments that had been pre-marked as spam so I’m sorry if it took a while for your comment to show up. I’ll have to go take a look and fix that.

Life’s been crazy busy for the last month – one big roller coaster ride. I had a paper due at school, a mock trial, and major health issues including surgery. But the good news is most of those are done and they all went well! I got an A on the paper, my side won the mock trial, and surgery went well with no complications. I am still on the mend from it but I was able to go back to school this week though it’s still slow going. The best part of that surgery? The biopsies they took all revealed no cancer! Yay! That’s basically the only important part of that. If I can get through these things in one big dose, so can you! However..if you need a little help, I have some tips that may make things easier.

  • Surround yourself with family and friends. My parents came down for the surgery. My brother and sister and best friend talked to me throughout the weeks leading up to it. My boyfriend was with me every step of the way and my friends down here were as supportive as can be. When things get rough, they’re the first people to make you feel better. They helped all the stress I was feeling about all of those things go down ten fold. Don’t underestimate the power of a good chat.
  • Try and make those projects enjoyable. I tried to pick a topic I could analyze and argue passionately about for my paper and the time it took to write it flew by. For my mock trial, I laughed. A lot. I tried to find humor in whatever I could in that case file and it relaxed me. It made it easier to question someone in front of a jury of strangers. School and work projects really don’t take as much out of you if you’re having fun so find the humor, get a friend involved, make a study party date with some friends – you’ll be done in no time.
  • Don’t push yourself. So I’m back in school this week and I regretted it on Monday. I was just not ready to go back and I shouldn’t have forced myself. I was miserable all that day and in more pain than I had been in 4 days. It’s okay to sleep and lay in bed all day. Don’t try and do things your body is clearly telling you it’s not ready to do.
  • Eat. Busy times are probably the most important times to keep eating and eating healthy. It’ll help you keep your energy up and give you the ability to think clearly. I tend to eat less when I’m stressed and then I get tired and feel sick all the time. This time I didn’t, I forced myself to eat as normally as possible and it was so much easier to get through the last month!
I’m sure I’ll come up with more with exams coming up but that’s all I have for now. Thank you again for reading and being patient with my absence these last couple of week!
Published in: on November 2, 2011 at 4:44 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Achy joint relief? Yes please!

I found this article and thought it might be helpful. I’ve tried some remedies on my own but not these (except physical therapy which I have had) yet. I plan on trying them, I’ll let you know how it works out!

From http://www.everydayhealth.com/arthritis/chronic-pain.aspx?xid=aol_eh-arth_1_200111003&aolcat=AJA

Living With Chronic Joint Pain

Ease arthritis pain and stiffness with these smart tips — no medication or surgery required.

Medically reviewed by Ed Zimney, MD

There’s no doubt that arthritis — and the joint pain that goes with it — can be difficult to live with day in and day out. But there are ways to make life easier that don’t involve medication or surgery.

Here are some alternative methods to ease joint pain and discomfort.

Physical Therapy for Joint Pain

Many people with arthritis have stiff joints, partly because they avoid movements that can cause pain — but immobilizing joints will only increase stiffness. That’s where physical therapy comes in.

The goal of physical therapy is to get patients back to the point where they can perform normal, everyday activities without difficulty, says Bronwyn Spira, PT, a physical therapist and director of physical rehabilitation at New York Physical Rehabilitation & Wellness in New York City. “It surprises many, but exercise will help your joints feel better, not worse,” says Spira. A physical therapist can prescribe exercises designed to decrease stiffness and improve muscle strength, as well as show you how to move and change positions (for example, getting up from a chair or out of bed or picking up something off the floor) with minimal pain. She can also demonstrate how to use walking aids, such as a cane, walker, or crutches.

To find a physical therapist who works with arthritis patients, ask your doctor for a referral. Most insurance plans cover a specific number of physical therapy sessions per year when prescribed by a physician.

Home Modifications

Another strategy for managing arthritis pain is to avoid twisting, pinching, squeezing, and pulling because these motions can stress the joints and exacerbate pain. Sharry Wallach, an occupational therapist in New York City, suggests the following modifications around the home:

  • Replace doorknobs and faucets. Lever-style handles are easier on the joints than knobs that require a twisting motion to operate.
  • Modify lamps. Replace small, rotating knobs on existing lamps with larger, grip-and-turn knobs. Consider buying lamps that turn on with a touch or are activated by voice or motion.
  • Opt for pump-top bottles. Pushing a pump of dish soap, hand lotion, shampoo, or toothpaste is easier than squeezing a tube or bottle.

Assistive devices — products specifically designed for arthritis sufferers — can make living with chronic pain easier too. These include wide-grip foam handles for eating utensils, scissors, garden tools, reach extenders, and jar openers.

Alternative Therapies for Chronic Pain

Complementary and alternative medicine can also help ease joint pain. For example, several studies have found that acupuncture helps reduce arthritis pain, may decrease the need for pain medications, and can help increase joint flexibility.

There are conflicting studies on the supplements glucosamine and chondroitin, but some have demonstrated a beneficial effect on OA, especially for patients with moderate to severe knee pain. Additionally, fish oil supplements may help reduce arthritis inflammation. “Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil are natural anti-inflammatories,” says Beth Reardon, R.D., a nutritionist at Duke University’s Integrative Medicine Center. Consult with your doctor before taking any dietary supplements, because some may interfere with the actions of other medications.

You may also want to consider mind-body therapies such as hypnosis, progressive muscle relaxation, tai chi, and yoga, which have all been that have been shown to help people living with chronic pain. Best of all, these holistic therapies have no known negative side effects.

The Emotional Side of Chronic Pain

Finally, while you’re caring for your body, don’t ignore your emotional well-being. Depression, anger, frustration, and anxiety are common for many with chronic arthritis. Not only can these feelings make it tough to muster the energy and motivation to cope with joint discomfort, they can worsen pain, says Michael First, MD, a professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia University. For those who find themselves overwhelmed emotionally, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), which teaches patients to recognize and correct their destructive negative thought processes, can be helpful, says Dr. First. Support groups offer another good option. “Being with people who understand what you’re dealing with can help you feel less alone, and you may pick up some new pain-coping strategies,” notes Dr. First.

Last Updated: 09/22/2011
Published in: on October 7, 2011 at 10:23 pm  Comments (7)  
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