Monday, April 30, 2018

Thinking It Through - Arthritis and Mexico

My arthritis is seriously flared at the moment.  The last two weeks my bowling has been impeded by a bum hip making it much less fun.  Sleeping has been dreadful.  Today is better than yesterday which is better than the day before.  Here's hoping I can get back up to my bowling average this week!  And, you know, other stuff I enjoy!
It has been a trying month and I'm feeling rather over it at this point.  There's no point in denying that.  There have been a handful of moments where I've struggled keep it together--to avoid crying or throwing a tantrum.  So, rather than give in to that I thought perhaps I'd distract myself with pondering....
...because, thinking back, my arthritis pain was essentially non-existent when I was in Mexico.  So...what was different?  I came up with eight things--though they're of varying significance, I suspect.
Walking - We walked and walked and walked and walked.  Most days it was seven or eight miles for me, up and down the board walk, in and out of the surf, up and down to the pool.  My "light" day was still 5.25 miles!  This seems the most drastically different factor between Mexico-life and Regular-Life.
Elevation - In Mexico I was quite literally at sea level whereas my Montana home is around 3,100 feet above sea level.  I imagine that changes the internal pressure of my joints and oxygenation in my blood and all sorts of stuff.  All three of us were noticeably winded as we hustled through the Denver International Airport after a week down at the sea.  So there maybe something to this...
Food - I ate smaller portions and as such, significantly less food.  I actually came back from vacation lighter than when I left.  I ate potato chips, margarine, a few pieces of candy, and drank several Coca Light (i.e. Diet Coke) while down south though so it isn't like I avoided processed foods or anything.  I just ate less altogether because I was too busy soaking it all in.   So, maybe I'm taxing my system through over overeating.  As to specifics of diet, maybe I need more fat in my life (I gobbled a lot of avocados) or more fruit (I ate basically a whole pineapple in one go).
Sitting - I was on my feet much, much more than on my butt that week.  That is for sure.  We sat on the boats, we sat for dinner, we sat and played cards in the evening, I started each morning sitting on the balcony a little while.  Buuuuuut, then I was go-go-go all day, basically, walking, swimming, and jogging.  This, of course, ties in with all the previously mentioned walking.  I moved a lot and hardly sat down.  This make me think of my Grandpa Lyle and his catchphrase:  "Get off your dead ass and move."  He was always a big proponent of walking and movement as a sort of medicine.
Showering - I showered at least once every single day on account of the swimming, especially oceanic swimming.  I am more in the three times a week camp in my regular life.  Different thought it may be, I can't quite see how this would make a major impact in my arthritis though.  My skin maybe, but my hip?!  I'm not sure.
Stress - I, in general, do not have a stressful job nor a stressful life.  (Praise be!)  That said, I am sure I was more relaxed laying under that umbrella on the sandy beach listening to the waves crashing.  Of course, the actual travel, especially airports and customs, wasn't relaxing whatsoever and certain points of the trip had their own stress.  Mental math from dollars to pesos while simultaneously navigating Spanish ingredient labels for gluten-free (for mom) and vegan (for me) at that Mexican Wal-Mart being a prime example.  I don't think stress is really a factor, but I had to consider it.
Bed - I slept in a different bed, of course, but still used two fluffy pillows like usual.  Honestly, the quality of my bed rarely seems to matter in my experience.  Sometimes my back hurts just as bad at home in my bed as when I'm sleeping on a two-inch air mattress in the mountains.  Sometimes worse.  I've tried firm and soft mattresses and one, two, or zero pillows and had no noticeable affect.  It is probably worth noting that I didn't really sleep better in Mexico, either, based on my on recollections and on the sleep log from my Fitbit.
Weight - When I came back from Mexico I was five pounds lighter than I am now.  Bearing extra weight won't do the joints any favors, but I am dubious that five little ol' pounds would make that much difference.  In how my skirts fit, sure, but not in how my joints feel.
Perhaps there are additional factors I've not though of yet, but my prime suspects at this point are all the walking and not sitting coupled with eating less altogether, regardless of content.
I do, however, seriously wonder if there isn't something to the lower elevation idea.... barring a major life transition there is not much I can do about that one though.  So, it is a fairly moot point, I guess.  I might do some research in the library's medical databases for my own curiosity though.
So....surprise, surprise....it seems like the solution to increasing my health and happiness might be to move more and eat less.  Ha!  Naturally!  Of course, that would be it....
Maybe I'll start walking to work instead of cycling.  I'd have to get up earlier, but if I could feel better it would be more than worth it.  I also pulled the trigger on something I'd been considering for a while now and ordered a standing desk for my office.
And who knows!  Maybe it was just a matter of blessed timing and happy coincidence that I felt so great in Mexico.   I am thankful for how great I felt during that particular adventure.
I've made other attempts at pinpointing triggers (gluten, beer, sugar) or solutions (daily yoga, sleeping position) that have all failed to yield much fruit.  It is frustrating.  I just want to know what it is so I can make it stop.  My (former) arthritis doctor was never huge on this figure-it-out approach and just counselled me to take my pills and hope for the best in the progression of my disease.  I, too, remain quite uncertain that there is a silver bullet.  Yet, I keep hunting for it because otherwise I just feel powerless and I refuse to accept that.
I always hesitate to click "publish" on these sort of posts as I don't want people to worry or pity or anything like that, especially my family.  So, I'll just say right here and now:  Don't worry.  I'm a tough cookie.  Matt gave me the nicest compliment the other day on our gratitude board.  "I am thankful for Beth today because... she always has pain and doesn't b*%!h or let it stop her."
That's right.  I got this.  Pain be darned.
(And I do feel better in a way, just writing it all out.  The system works!)

6 comments:

  1. Turmeric helps with arthritis.

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    1. A good reminder, thanks, Mary.

      I have a turmeric-based pain medication I use in place of, say, Aleve or Tylanol. (Until it gets too bad at which point I jump to the "real" deal) I use turmeric as a spice in cooking, but not enough to make a difference, I bet. Hmmmm, more research might be needed on figuring out a daily dose. I appreciate your suggestion.

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  2. I would say Sun intensity. It is much higher in Mexico than Montana. I have friends with arthritis, that retired from the PNW to Arizona for that very reason. Their pain is almost non existent in Arizona.

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    1. Ah.....another factor. Interesting. Something else to research. Is it the UV? The vitamin D? What? I know two people (my sister and a friend) who suffer from psoriasis (another autoimmune condition) and they both benefit from UV treatments since they live in the PNW. I never thought about it since psoriasis is a skin thing, but maybe there is a larger link there. Or not. Either way. I'll explore this.

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  3. Oh Beth, you are my heroine! I so admire your attitude coupled with your honesty about it all. I was diagnosed with a vestibular migraine condition last year after months of doctors/testing/not being able to get through my days normally - and although I’m grateful to know what it is I’m dealing with (and relieved it’s not MS like suspected for awhile) - I’m struggling with my new normal. I’ve been on an incredibly restricted diet the past 6 months to try controlling the symptoms, and it’s helped, but sometimes I just want it to go away already!! All that to say I feel like I can understand what you’re going through with your arthritis. I’ve been trying to practice “offering up” my suffering on the worst days...for my family, for peace, for whatever intention that comes to me, and it’s helped me channel my negative feelings into something more productive. To have the joy that you do, even through suffering, is beyond inspiring!

    Love,
    Jaime

    P.S. is your email address still the same?

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    1. Hi, Jamie. You are too kind, but I appreciate your kindness more than I can say.

      I am sorry to hear of your own health trials, but you seem to have a good attitude as well. I'm thankful it isn't MS and that is has a name and hope your treatments slowly sort things out--and that prayer helps until that time.

      Your babies must be so big by now!! How is the farm? I imagine that can be overwhelming when not feeling on your A-Game. I am so thankful for Matt keeping things going at times like this.

      Yes, same email! Thanks for the encouragement!

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Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts and ideas. I value the advice and friendship that you share with me!