Joint Injections for Rheumatoid Arthritis

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This blog is called Rheumatoid Arthritis Warrior because we have to fight. I know I’m not the best warrior or the only warrior – I just know that is what we have to do: fight. Actually, through this blog, I meet other warriors who inspire me every day. I feel like my own fight is a work in progress. Through the blog, I’ve shared some of my own battles, hoping it will help others in their fight.

I refused joint injections for Rheumatoid Arthritis

 Have you ever had a joint injected? Lots of patients talk about steroid injections in joints, but I had never had any.  Well now I have.

Why hadn’t I tried joint injections for RA before? My reasoning is kind of ironic. Or maybe just stupid.

fingers cannot bendIf you’ve read my story, you know the Rheumatoid Arthritis spread pretty fast through all of my joints. Within a few months, every joint that I knew of was hurt, stiff, sore, loud, and lame. Sharp pains vary, but they are all sore all the time, hurting more if they are used or touched. Gradually, RA taught me some anatomy lessons.

So when one doctor (not my current doc) recommended I see a pain specialist to have every painful joint injected, I refused. “You want me to inject every joint in my body? No.” That was about a year and a half ago. Ironically, I thought that meant that, even though it might help me, I would never have a joint treated with a steroid injection. Did I think all of the rest would be jealous? I don’t know.

Taking the new step of joint injections

For a long time, my fingers were never as bad as other joints; no obvious swelling. The RA made them always sore and weak, flaring worse now and then. About last January, they decided to prove the “mythical fact” about RA that hands are always bad. I had to stop doing lots things I’d done until then. No writing with a pencil. No more scissors. No knitting or sewing.

The fingers take turns being bad, but two are always the worst. They’ve stayed in full flare all these months. I’ve seen the rheum doc a couple of times; we’ve increased meds, changed my meds, and added meds. The fingers stay the same.  So, last week, I took a new step toward being an empowered patient and an RA warrior. I picked up the phone and told the receptionist at the rheum doc, “Please give me your first available appointment. On what days does doc do injections?”

To my shock, I was given an appointment in 4 days.

How much does a joint injection for Rheumatoid Arthritis hurt?

If you’ve watched my last video, you know I’m glad for the rheum doc I have now. If I had to give this one a nickname, it would be Smart Rheum Doc. If you don’t have Dr. Right yet, I hope you’ll watch the video sometime.

So, doc comes in, listens to me, squeezes lots of joints, and sternly says, “We will do one joint. It will hurt. If you can stand the pain, we will do another joint.” Scary sounding. So, the MA preps 4 needles and they both wash up. Smart Doc injects a local anesthetic – like a bee sting in my knuckle. Then the steroid shots.

I wish Katie Beth had snapped a picture of my face. That was it?

I told them both, “That joint hurts worse than that 20 times every day if it is accidentally touched.”

Then, I wished I had a picture of their faces!

Honestly, this is the smartest rheum doc I’ve ever met. I do trust this doc. Not so much the MA who makes mistakes and gets frustrated and rude. But this seems like a top doc. And yet, I think this doc has no idea how much RA pain hurts. If a great doc does not have a conception of what we have to deal with, then what does that say about the mediocre or crummy docs? They just don’t know. Their training does not teach that.

We need to change that.

Let’s inject every joint

Doc did another joint. I begged for more. Doc did some math. “No, you can only have two today because of the amount of medicine for your weight.” Doc knew I would be back soon for more, saying, “I’ll see you soon.” I guess injecting all of my joints doesn’t seem like such a bad idea anymore.

Here’s a page from the American College of Rheumatology with a good explanation of joint injections for Rheumatoid Arthritis.

Postblog: Did it help? I’m writing this 3½ days after the injections. It got worse when the anesthetic wore off. Then it got better. I’ll post a photo to show how the range of motion is now. It still hurts. But it’s still early. What I’m really hoping for is to be able to wear mascara. It’s been 14 months since I could put on makeup. Wouldn’t that be nice?

Do you think you might be willing to try joint injections? Or maybe you have any tips about joint injections for the rest of us?

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Kelly Young. All rights reserved.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, October 13th, 2010 at 6:00 am and is filed under RA Education. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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