Living with the Pain
By Tiffany Fewell
You wake up every morning ready to face the day. Each day brings you the promise of rolling out of bed to the rush of pain shooting through your body, and at times a numbing sensation that ripples in your joints. After this subsides, you bounce through the day only to find that you are in dire need of a nap by lunchtime.
The pain and fatigue are so wrenching that they alter the way you get through your day. Indeed, living with arthritis isn’t something that anyone would look forward to doing.
Arthritis is the inflammation of one or more joints that causes pain, swelling, stiffness and limited movement. There are more than 100 different types of arthritis. The symptoms of arthritis can be dismissed as soreness and stiffness from other activities or simply part of the aging process.
“I can remember being a teenager and complaining to doctors that I hurt all the time, and they would just say it was probably growing pains,” Hilary Karchmer said. Karchmer, 39, is a mother of two, an avid runner and has completed three marathons. She also has rheumatoid arthritis.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disorder that affects the lining in the joints of the hands and feet. causing swelling in the joints that can lead to bone erosion and joint deformity, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Karchmer was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis almost 15 years ago, but has felt the pain in her joints since she was a teenager. This particular type of arthritis is two to three times more common in men than women and generally occurs between the ages of 40 and 60, according to the Mayo Clinic.
For years, Karchmer would write off her pain and stiffness as soreness from all the running she did. Stiffness in the joints, especially the knees, is very common in long-distance runners. However, when her husband found her unable to move because she was in so much pain, she knew that this was something more than typical pain from running.
“It hurt so much that I literally couldn’t move,” Karchmer said. “All I could do was stay curled up in a ball.”
She found an arthritis doctor and was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. She was put on medication to manage the pain and inflammation in the joints.
There is no cure for arthritis, only pain management.
“I credit the amount of activity to how manageable it is,” Karchmer said. She still is an avid runner. She is a former kickboxing instructor and works out regularly in conjunction with her running. She says that without all this activity, she can’t imagine what kind of pain she might be in.
“I only have minor flare-ups of pain in my knees, but they are very rare,” she said. Her activity is just what the doctor would order for anyone dealing with arthritis. The most effective treatment that isn’t a medication is exercise, according to the Arthritis Foundation. Exercise will lessen pain and reduce fatigue. Along with exercise, hot or cold compresses can be used after periods of activity and, of course, seeing a physician and getting medication will aid in easing the pain and other symptoms of arthritis.
Physical pain isn’t the only pain that can torment some arthritis sufferers. Much progress has been made in the medicinal treatment of arthritis. From only having a few choices of medications to new medications being created every year, medical treatment options for this painful disorder have expanded by leaps and bounds. One of the newest medical marvels promises only 12 doses per year administered through a shot you give yourself. The medication is called Simponi. Simponi, an injectable, is a once-a-month drug used to manage rheumatoid arthritis, active psoriatic arthritis and active ankylosing spondylitis
This self-injectable is revolutionary in that it is a self-injectable that is used once a month. Twelve doses a year are needed rather than taking a pill every day or making multiple visits to the doctor to receive shots. Revolution does come with a price. This drug not only comes with side effect warnings, but also a hefty cost. Simponi costs $1,700 with assistance from insurance. Pick up your jaw from the floor, because there is a light at the end of the arthritis tunnel. Several assistance programs that aid in the costs of drugs such as Simponi. These assistance programs can help make the drug more affordable and accessible to patients.
Many other medical options are available for the treatment of arthritis, but the best medicine is healthy living. Eat right, exercise often and be happy; these three things will ensure a brighter day for anyone living with arthritis. To learn more about arthritis, visit the Arthritis Foundation’s Oklahoma Chapter at 1200 N.W. 63rd St. in Oklahoma City or go online to www.arthritis.org/chapters/Oklahoma