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Owwwwww….. How to Feel Good With Arthritis

I found out I had an arthritic spine around the same time I realised I couldn’t strut and bend my musculoskeletal stuff like those kids in Fame.

With stiff and inflamed joints, I said bye-bye to backflips and hello to walking on eggshells until I found out that mountain bikes had suspension and that being fit, living well and feeling good was the key to dealing with pain.

Darlington Downs Nov 09 (98)

Not so shocking with suspension

Anky What????

The proper name for my rickety spine is Ankylosing Spondylitis, which is a bit of a gob-full so it’s often shortened to AS or Anky what?

AS primarily attacks and inflames the joints of the spine and the connective soft tissues. It’s systemic (whole body) so other joints, even the eyes and organs can get roped into the inflammatory fest too.

The culprit is a malfunctioning immune system, which means I put-put along misfiring off only three cylinders in general, but the real damage is done by the cycle of inflammatory attacks that can lead to bone fusion. This has been happening to me since I was a teenager.

Does it hurt? ……hurrrrrrm do werewolves howl at the moon?

Speaking of which, Werewolves need to get a grip. Their pain only lasts a few minutes while they go through musculoskeletal change once every lunar cycle. It’s a well known fact among us Anky Whats that Werewolves are wusses.

Unlike dealing with werewolves, there is no silver-bullet answer to managing pain. It’s not just a matter of popping some pills. But with the right treatment, support structure and a pain management plan, it is possible to live well with arthritis and any condition that creates longterm pain.

Chairs are evil

I get pain whether I’m up a mountain or sitting on a sofa watching TV. Actually, sitting exacerbates the condition and I get pain relief with movement. It’s another well known fact among us Anky Whats that chairs are evil. Following the dramatics of Kim Kardashian’s split ends, broken nails and failed relationships is not in my best interest. I find there is always a bright side to these things.

 

Kim Kardashian Free Zone

Kim Kardashian Free Zone (The fluffy duck look is big on the mountain circuit)

Changing the record

Now I could go into some science stuff here but the bottom line is that concentrating your brain on the pain will make it feel worse because pain loves attention.  So I talk about the good stuff in my life because – let’s fast forward the science stuff again – the ‘feel good’ factor  produces a chemical in your brain that scientists believe helps to alleviate pain.

In other words, swapping the conversation from bad back to bike rides gives me a double whammy pain reducing effect.

Listen…..

And it’s not all about running up hills and chasing endorphins. Anything that activates the reward centre in your brain such as music can do it. James Brown can make everyone feel good.

Woman listening dancing to music

And there’s more…….

There are all sorts of methods for alleviating pain and nowadays there are specialists who can help people develop a pain management plan. With the power of social media and blogging, those who live with pain can share knowledge and experiences.

But wait…..

Beware of those leeches who sell their fake promises and infiltrate forums to feed off the vulnerable. If you’re one of them, don’t bother leaving a link to one of your 100% natural guaranteed money-back-quackery-three-minute-miracle-arthritic cures in my comments thread.

This is especially for you.

Barbed Bird

Quackery not welcome – Bog off.

So what’s my feel good secret?

I developed a pain management plan. It started with small goals and steps. It was a trial and error self-styled journey. I talked to doctors and health professionals, but back then, with no pain management specialists as such, my “eureka” moment was realising that it was my responsibility to manage it.

 

Here are my top five points that work best for me – please read my disclaimer first!

  • Exercise is king for me – I love challenges but overdoing it can exacerbate pain. I started out with small regular workouts building my endurance slowly.
  • Eat a healthy balanced diet – Even people without chronic conditions feel crap when they eat crap.
  • I get a good nights sleep – Sleep restores the body and fights fatigue.
  • I do what makes me feel good – For instance photography. Were not talking illegal drugs or pounds of chocolate. Keep it healthy. (Note to self: Drink less wine).
  • I avoid stress at all costs – stress creates tighter muscles, agitation and anxiety which – skipping the science stuff again – are known to exacerbate pain.

 

Each one is a notch down on the pain volume dial and they all worked together to help me get back on track, on top of a mountain and feeling good. Owwwwww.

Want more help on managing pain?  Check out these resources and options on Chronic Pain Australia’s website.

What do you do to get the feel good factor?

 

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Tracey Croke is a journalist, travel writer, photographer and adventurist, specialising in stories about roughty-toughty travel, offtrack adventure and anything involving a bike Follow Tracey on Google +

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23 Responses to Owwwwww….. How to Feel Good With Arthritis

  1. Johanna at ZigaZag May 16, 2013 at 3:07 pm #

    I feel for you Tracey, and can hardly believe that you do so much amazing physical stuff. Your bike expeditions are a constant source of encouragement to me. I loved this piece, from the tips (which I think are useful for a vast cross section of people with chronic pain) to the way you wrote it. So funny in places that I was smiling at the computer. The picture of the barbed wire (along with its connotation) is ace – did you take it?
    Keep on rocking, girl!
    Johanna at ZigaZag recently posted..How to feel happy in 5 photosMy Profile

    • Tracey May 16, 2013 at 6:57 pm #

      Hi Jo, I feel lucky that I somehow managed to find my mojo and what works well for me. It wasn’t always that way. Before I was diagnosed, I spent 12 long years being continually told there was nothing wrong. It was distressing to say the least. Once I was diagnosed, I got informed, back in control and grabbed life by the nuts.

      Having said that. I also know how scary it is for young people to be diagnosed with a lifelong painful condition and that they will feel anxious about the future. I hope my blog offers them some comfort on that score.

      I’m a bit extreme for the rheumatology dept if the truth be known, but I’ve spent years building up to this point and I’ve discovered life is a lotta fun outside the comfort zone.

      I got the photo from IStock – I think it cost $10 but I couldn’t resist it and was well worth it in this case I thought : )
      Tracey recently posted..Owwwwww….. How to Feel Good With ArthritisMy Profile

  2. Coralie May 20, 2013 at 7:35 am #

    Hey Trace what a girl, just inspirational. I love your formula and although you say it’s individual to everyone in pain i reckon your pain management plan elements are pretty common for most people, what you think, what you do, what you feel, how your body moves, what you eat and choosing what you do are the essential elements. You spent a long time researching what YOU could do, and you choose the right options to lower your inflammatory condition.

    Go girl, we love you!

  3. ilsa May 20, 2013 at 10:29 am #

    Wow! You are really inspiring. I need to follow your tips -get past the pain and into life and exercise. I dream of being able to hike in a rainforest one day. It all starts with small steps. Iyou are very inspiring. Thanks.

    • Tracey May 20, 2013 at 1:30 pm #

      That’s right ilsa, you can get past it and follow your dreams. Rainforest is very accessible in Australia. The Daintree Rainforest in Tropical Far North Queensland Australia is one of the most diverse and beautiful examples and a big bumper bonus is that it butts up to the Great Barrier Reef. It doesn’t have to be hard “yakka” as we say in Oz. There is every level of accommodation and hikes for all abilities. All you need is a basic level of walking fitness. Good luck.
      Tracey recently posted..Owwwwww….. How to Feel Good With ArthritisMy Profile

  4. Anita Mac May 21, 2013 at 12:07 am #

    Love your attitude Tracey – you inspire me! My accident a number of years ago still wipes me out at times! I must stop letting it and keep up the adventures. It was amazing how the pain went away when I walked the Camino – but sitting at home, it can stop me in my tracks!

    And, BTW – Following the high drama of Kim Kardashian’s split ends, broken nails and failed relationships is not in anyone’s best interest.

    Love your outlook on life and that barbed wire shot – priceless!
    Anita Mac recently posted..Monday Morning Series: Kayak Certification at Meech LakeMy Profile

    • Tracey | Chronic Adventures May 23, 2013 at 11:03 am #

      I didn’t know you had an accident Anita. So many people report persistent pain after they’ve had an accident or injury even when doctors have told them the injury has healed. It’s natural to want to stop but it seems keeping moving is best. Thanks for sharing your experience and what worked for you. Looks like we get our feel-good kicks in the same way. Let’s keep it up together.
      Tracey | Chronic Adventures recently posted..Owwwwww….. How to Feel Good With ArthritisMy Profile

  5. sarah May 21, 2013 at 2:05 am #

    great blog Tracey! from a person with chronic pain-in the UK

  6. Graham J. Sharpe May 31, 2013 at 6:21 pm #

    Great advice and inspiring too. I write a lot and have discovered that running round the Ashdown Forest (near to where i live) is the perfect antidote to sitting for long periods.

    Your blogs should be on prescription :-)

    If only they knew…Kim Kardashian’s split ends, broken nails and failed relationships neutralize endorphins.
    Graham J. Sharpe recently posted..Can you help?My Profile

  7. Chapps June 3, 2013 at 3:22 pm #

    Tracey, you are fantastic! I’m a big exercise fan, and have been that way my whole life. Of course, being in great shape and having AS can cause people to say things like ‘You don’t look sick’, even when it hurts to breathe.

    Your advice is spot-on, and I really appreciate you telling those ‘all natural remedies’ idiots where to get off. I’m so tired of those trolls.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences – best wishes from Los Angeles, CA!

  8. Tracey June 3, 2013 at 3:40 pm #

    Awwww, thanks a million. It means everything to me that my blog post reached a fellow ASer. I really appreciate your support and thanks for taking the time to comment….. I hope you come back again. Good on you for finding your mojo in exercise. Keep movin’ : D
    Tracey recently posted..Owwwwww….. How to Feel Good With ArthritisMy Profile

  9. E.Perez June 28, 2013 at 4:54 am #

    Thanks. I have been looking for something like this. Wonderful information.

  10. Paul April 2, 2014 at 5:41 pm #

    Such good advise Tracey! Love your positive attitude and how you manage your pain

  11. Name and link removed June 3, 2014 at 8:28 pm #

    (The name of a product has been removed from this comment) Arthritic knee the question is interesting, I too will take part in discussion i know, that together we can come to a right answer

  12. jone lara July 19, 2014 at 4:45 pm #

    These kinds of very good aid Tracey! Enjoy the positive frame of mind along with how we deal with the discomfort.

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