Get­ting old too soon

An os­teoarthri­tis di­ag­no­sis at 42 was an eye-opener for Sarah Ivens.

Windsor Star - - YOU - Lon­don Daily Tele­graph

There are cru­eller ways to feel over the hill than reach­ing your 40th birth­day. My cel­e­bra­tion was golden and full of glit­ter, the theme be­ing “bling it on — I’m 40 and fab­u­lous, let’s party.” But just two years later, a di­ag­no­sis of arthri­tis in my hips made me re­al­ize how naive I had been. I was not en­er­get­i­cally bound­ing to­ward — or through, if we’re be­ing hon­est — mid­dle age with a skip in my step. I was limp­ing along. Lit­er­ally.

I got my di­ag­no­sis via a con­sul­ta­tion with my doc­tor and a se­ries of X-rays four weeks ago, but I’d been feel­ing pain in my hips — some nights so bad it would take me hours to fall asleep — for two years. Wor­ried when they had first started hurt­ing, I’d headed to a doc­tor who as­sured me it was just the usual strain of lug­ging young chil­dren around, and bend­ing into awk­ward po­si­tions while car­ry­ing out the mul­ti­task­ing re­quired of any busy mother. Un­con­vinced and still in agony, I got a dif­fer­ent doc­tor’s per­spec­tive, and there it was. Arthri­tis.

What is arthri­tis? In­flam­ma­tion in the joints is how it is char­ac­ter­ized — a com­mon con­di­tion that af­fects more than 350 mil­lion peo­ple world­wide, ac­cord­ing to the Global RA Net­work (more than six mil­lion alone in Canada, Arthri­tis So­ci­ety re­ports). Arthri­tis causes joint pain, stiff­ness and ten­der­ness, re­stricted move­ment, and weak­ness and mus­cle wast­ing. There are many dif­fer­ent types of the con­di­tion, and my symp­toms sug­gested the most com­mon strain: os­teoarthri­tis.

I’d pushed for an X-ray when the two linked symp­toms I’d been liv­ing with mis­er­ably over the past two years wors­ened. The pain that burned deep in­side my hip socket — es­pe­cially on the right side, the place I had car­ried my chil­dren for the past seven years — had be­gun to ra­di­ate down through my thighs and into my knees.

When, in a bid to get fit for the sum­mer, I dropped my usual walk­ing and yoga fit­ness regime for a stricter regime of run­ning five days a week, the agony in­creased. Men­tally, jog­ging felt fab­u­lous — my clar­ity and pos­i­tiv­ity dra­mat­i­cally im­proved — but phys­i­cally, it was bring­ing me down.

Along­side the phys­i­cal is­sues was in­creas­ing stiff­ness. For a cou­ple of years, I’d feel strik­ingly in­flex­i­ble af­ter a long car jour­ney or a big chunk of time work­ing at my desk, and would have to do a few hip cir­cles and bends to feel nor­mal again, but in the past few months I’d started hob­bling. I’d have to pull my­self up from ta­bles af­ter a half-hour cof­fee date, un­able to walk un­til my hips had read­justed to a new po­si­tion. Get­ting out of bed in the morn­ing was be­com­ing in­creas­ingly more laboured, and stretch­ing was non-ne­go­tiable. These out­ward signs pushed me to­ward the doc­tor’s of­fice more than the pain. Call it van­ity, but I didn’t want — at 42 years old — to be hob­bling in­stead of walk­ing, crooked and twisted in­stead of stand­ing tall.

Be­cause of my age, my symp­toms weren’t au­to­mat­i­cally as­sumed to be arthri­tis, but when the in­flam­ma­tion shone through on the X-ray, I was given a clear pro­gram to an im­proved stan­dard of liv­ing.

I felt in­cred­i­bly pos­i­tive that by fol­low­ing a plan, the pain and stiff­ness could be mostly de­fused.

I was sent off with a pre­scrip­tion for a non-steroidal an­ti­in­flam­ma­tory drug (NSAID), an oral pill called naproxen to take dur­ing a se­vere flare-up of pain or in­flam­ma­tion, not con­sis­tently. A limit of 500 mg per bad day was set, and I was de­ter­mined to only use it dur­ing the most ex­cru­ci­at­ing mo­ments.

A cou­ple of hours af­ter tak­ing one of these tablets, I did feel bet­ter, and the good night’s rest I was re­warded with con­trib­uted to an im­proved gen­eral sense of well-be­ing im­me­di­ately.

I was also dis­patched with a re­fer­ral to a phys­io­ther­a­pist, who would teach me, us­ing man­ual ther­apy, var­i­ous stretch­ing tech­niques to keep my hip joints sup­ple. Along­side this more dis­ci­plined phys­i­cal treat­ment, I was urged to con­tinue the weekly yoga class I had been at­tend­ing for the last year.

I also agreed to give up run­ning for walk­ing, and found a good march in the open air of­fered just as many feel-good mental ben­e­fits as a sweaty or­deal on a tread­mill. Swim­ming, I was ad­vised, could re­duce stiff­ness, too. As well, the ben­e­fits of drop­ping a lit­tle weight — as well as re­duc­ing con­sump­tion of in­flam­ma­tory foods such as things high in sat­u­rated fat (red meat and but­ter) and re­plac­ing them with ben­e­fi­cial things like omega-3 fatty acid-filled fish and an­tiox­i­dant, vi­ta­min C-rich fruit (straw­ber­ries, pineap­ple and kiwi) — be­came clear, and I walked away with my X-ray re­sults de­ter­mined to im­prove my diet, fill­ing it with whole, nat­u­ral foods. I’ve lost seven pounds (3.1 kg) over the past month, which has re­duced the pain slightly. The other change in my con­sump­tion has been adding sup­ple­ments known to aid arthri­tis suf­fer­ers. Ev­ery morn­ing, I take Move Free pills, which sup­port joint health with a com­bi­na­tion of glu­cosamine, chon­droitin and hyaluronic acid. I’ve also added — on the ad­vice of other mid­dle-aged arthritic friends — cur­cumin cap­sules, which re­duce joint in­flam­ma­tion, and fish oil cap­sules.

Knowl­edge is power, and ed­u­cat­ing my­self to make bet­ter choices in how I use my body and what I feed it has made me feel men­tally stronger. Now I’m just wait­ing for the phys­i­cal side of me to fol­low.

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