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Rheumatoid Arthritis

RD Blog Week: The Medicine

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Like most patients with Rheumatoid Arthritis, I have pain. Some days it’s unbearable, other days it’s in the background but regardless of how intense it is, it’s always there.

A few years ago, as my disease progressed, my pain increased. My rheumatologist suggested I go to my primary care physician for pain management. My PCP in turn, gave me a list of pain management practices and said they’d prefer me to be managed through them. That made sense to me- I see a rheumatologist for my joints, the dentist for my teeth, and a pain doctor for my pain.

My PCP gave me a few names with one in particular that she thought I would be a good fit with. I also googled and found a practice that was right around the corner from my house. I figured I’d be making regular visits to them, so it made sense to see one close by. Bad idea.

I waited forever before finally seeing a physician. She asked me about my diseases, pain, medication. She then said something that I will never forget:

You are someone that will abuse pain medications. Why? Because you will finally feel some relief and you’ll want that relief as often as possible.

Needless to say, I cried. I was angry, sad, hopeless. I couldn’t believe what she had said to me.

Fast forward a few months..

I saw the pain management practice that my PCP had originally recommended. They were absolutely wonderful. I expected to feel judged, to have to defend my pain. Instead, they worked with me to create a pain management plan that would help me continue to work, be able to exercise, and sleep at night.

We utilized, and still do, all sorts of pain management options, not just pills. Topical creams and patches, injections, etc. Yes, I have to do random urine tests and sign an opioid agreement but I’ve learned that these measures are in place to protect my physician and to ensure I can continue getting adequate medication.

You are not alone in your pain.

Social media can really make living with pain even more difficult than it already is at times. Please don’t feel ashamed or judged by your pain and/or the medications you take for it. And please don’t feel that your pain is any less valid because someone else’s “seems worse”. Suffering is suffering.