A Day in the Life #14194, Psoriatic Arthritis and The Joys of Back Spasms

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Summary: Early this week, I had a flare that ended up putting me to bed for a couple of days. Talk about that, some, and talk about a few other things.

BLOT: (09 Apr 2016 - 10:23:45 AM)

A Day in the Life #14194, Psoriatic Arthritis and The Joys of Back Spasms

I have what appears to be psoriatic arthritis. It doesn't seem to be rheumatoid arthritis or lupus. I have had symptoms for a while, prone to random joint swellings and pain, prone to exhaustion even when well-rested and fed. The specialist checked me out for joint, bone, and tissue damage and it seems I am free of most of that, and generally she think that pain-killer during flares should be enough to keep it in check. She has prescribed me some massive doses of vitamin D, and I will be going back every few months to monitor it. I know that things like dairy, sunlight, and excessive pollen exposure seem to increase the flares, both the quantity and their intensity, but for the most part, they are a not an extreme drain on the life. Only, I've had two flares this year already that have been pretty bad. The one back in February was the major inspiration for "Life is Suffering and Full of Pain" (and a few other poems). This last one? Man. Let me tell you about this last one.

Me holding my thumb up

Last Friday night (Friday of last week), what you might call the early stages showed up. Maybe even as early as last Thursday, when my personal energy levels just tanked. They recovered somewhat over the weekend, but I had started to notice my joints hurting when I woke up, and, quite unlike me, I had to take a few rest breaks while doing stuff. On Monday, though, I had thought it passed. Had a relatively good night. By Tuesday, my left knee, left ankle, left hip, and lower back had begun to stiffen, and I felt a general unease about myself. I did not quite give it the care it deserved (like, I should have immediately taken some sort of anti-inflammatory). By the time I ran an errand with a friend, I could feel every step. We got me some Aleve, and I took one of those, but it just went downhill from there.

The swelling in my back snowballed into my back locking up on top of the joint pain. Woke up Wednesday, had trouble moving, wrote my boss saying I was going to take a half-day so I could rest, and then stepped into the shower and the simple act of lifting my legs over the tub and then standing that long had me in enough pain I could barely finish breakfast. I took the whole day off. I basically just laid down and did not move until lunch time. The act of cooking lunch hurt so much and I could not bend down to pick up anything, so I basically gave up on trying to get food or anything to drink. By that night, the back spasms kept me from being able to sleep. Thursday morning, took another shower, and that one ended with me laying in bed and crying, afterwards. At least for me, I'd say it was up to 9 on the pain scale, and after every action my back would twitch so hard it would cause my body to arch.

I went to two doctors on Thursday. The general practitioner got me on a fair pain killer, a two week dose of anti-inflammatories, and a few day dose of muscle relaxants. Even with those heavy pills, I still hurt most of the day, but the pain dropped from a 9 to a 7 to a 5 by that night. The specialist talked to me about my condition, and how I should generally be ok. Went to work yesterday, and the pain was mostly about a 4. Today it is a 2. I still can't bend over and do things like pick up my tea jug or lift anything heavier than maybe 20 pounds without immediately feeling it, but I feel like things are ok, again.

A couple of people have asked why I didn't immediately take this or that pill to stave it off, or why I didn't go to the doctor on Wednesday morning instead of waiting until Thursday. Frankly, I'm an idiot, for one. I thought that rest would solve it. Secondly, I have never had my body shut down quite like that without there being a direct cause. I threw my back out about 10 years ago, or so, but there were warning signs, and for the most part, it only hurt when I was being stupid. I've never had it where just laying on an ice pack takes the pain from unbearable to just nearly-unbearable. Well, I shouldn't say "unbearable". There are those that live with stronger and much more constant pain. Just really, really sucky.

Now, in the aftermath, I have tried to think about a few things, like how not to go through that in the future. Everything I read said that flares are a gambler's luck. They can come nearly back to back, or can go years without showing up except in minor form. I've had the tendency to flare since I was about 17, but the bad ones I can count on my fingers, and have only had maybe two or three real bad ones that have lasted for more than a few hours, until this year. There are a few medicinal things I can do, like when my energy tanks, I can immediately start on a dose of Aleve every twelve hours to keep the rest of the inflammation lighter. I have already cut out dairy and am careful around getting too much sun exposure.

Overall, though, part of the mental challenge will simply be to accept that it will happen again and again. There are going to be bad weeks. Maybe never another this bad, but this is the sort of condition that gets worse as you get older, I believe, so I won't be foolish and assume the best. I guess I'll just have to see how it goes. Knowing the demon is a way to fight it, and I now know this demon more than ever before.

A few quick shout outs to those that helped. My cat instinctively mothered me while I was in the worst pain. Normally she runs away from stuff like shouting, but when I would do things like cry in bed she would crawl beside me and press against me. She followed me from room to room and would watch me. Sarah came back from a conference and even though she was going through what turned out to be an ear infection, helped to make sure I was fed and hydrated. She was also very patient as I went to the doctors, because it took a few minutes just to do things like get in and out of a car. On Tuesday night, Maryam was the reason I got the Aleve to begin with. Without her, I would have probably tried to man-it-up and not taken anything, and I cannot imagine how bad it would have gotten if I had not had even over-the-counter NSAIDs. My loved ones made a major difference, and I am sure without them I would still be in bed, probably sicker than ever.

Man, enough whining. Next blog post, I am going to talk about happy things, I promise.


Written by Doug Bolden

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