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Rebecca Barnard

2016-09-09 09:16

Sue's Pain Story

I have osteoarthritis in my hands, left foot and back, and have been experiencing pain on and off for 15 years.

It started with osteoarthritis in my left thumb joint when I was in my mid-50s; I was then diagnosed with arthritis in my left foot, and my right thumb started to be painful about 5 years ago. I also have some arthritis in my back at the site of an old injury. My mother suffered badly with arthritis and two of my three brothers are also sufferers.

I have flare ups which can last for up to six months during which it is extremely painful. In between these the pain ranges from feeling like a mild nagging toothache to being more intermittent.

About six weeks ago I banged my right hand by accident, just alongside my first finger and knuckle, and set off inflamed arthritis. Life has been very difficult since then as it was my right hand that was knocked and I am very right-handed. When I wake up in the morning it is mildly swollen and by bedtime it has swollen down to my osteoarthritic thumb lump (almost my wrist). This means I cannot use the first finger on this hand and the middle finger quickly becomes painful on use. It is difficult to manage any task using my right hand especially cutting with knives or opening anything. Fortunately I am now retired as I would not have been able to work with my hand in this condition; my job involved a lot of keyboard use. I am having to get used to using my left hand and only the last two fingers on my right. Using my phone is easier as I can get by with my left hand.

As treatment for my hand I have been under the hand therapy clinic at the hospital who have given me exercises to do. I was a piano teacher for 20 years, and so have also restarted playing aged 69 in an effort to rebuild strength and hopefully regain some flexibility.

A consultant wanted to operate on my thumb joint but I decided to try and manage it myself instead, as the operation is often not successful and I had been advised against having it done by my GP. I have managed with medication instead as and when I need it, which is not always effective. When I have flare-ups my GP has advised that I use Ibuprofen 3 times a day for up to two weeks at a time, this affects my stomach and so I have to double up on my Omeprazole tablets to compensate. My GP is in agreement with this, and has also given me an Ibuprofen gel to use in addition if I need it. I find that Ibuprofen does not agree with me and I cannot always tolerate it for more than a few days at a time. Paracetamol has some effect but can only be used when the pain is not severe; I also find that Tiger Balm can be effective when the pain is not too bad.

For the arthritis in my left foot I wore inserts provided by the hospital for some years, however I find that if I get shoes with certain insoles it is just as good.

I signed up to Cloudy more or less in the beginning after I saw it advertised. I do believe that there is a correlation between the weather and my pain. In particular, my son lived for some years in Perth, Western Australia, where there is no humidity and the air is extremely dry and desert like. When I visited him there I didn't experience any symptoms although I was doing housework etc. as I do at home. I really feel that the weather can make a difference to our symptoms, especially living in a fairly humid atmosphere for most of the time. I also find that cold temperatures affect me.

I have been filling in the daily motif since the project started and can see a pattern. I really hope that this study can shed some light on the fluctuation of arthritis in conjunction with the weather as I can see the difference. Perhaps it will also encourage new ways of dealing with it other than the inevitable Ibuprofen.