Rheumatoid Arthritis Pain in the Twilight Zone

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Paper and light

Thank goodness for Rheumatoid Arthritis pain?

A few months ago, I had a discussion with a friend about Rheumatoid Arthritis pain. The friend does not have Rheumatoid Arthritis. We were speaking academically.

At that point, I began to consider how the medical world views Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) pain. I realized that doctors and researchers examine RA pain from the outside. They think they look at it objectively, measuring it the way meteorologists measure rainfall.

Last week, I was naively reading some study about pain threshold (PT) and Rheumatoid Arthritis. The researchers get to decide whether RA patients have a low pain threshold.  It was only mildly aggravating. Thank goodness I have real RA pain to give me perspective.

The “H” word?

Then, I clicked on a link. All these six syllable words start to numb you. It said “catastrophizing” about pain can lead to a disorder called “hypochondriasis”. Wonder what that is. What a minute – that’s a form of another word: hypochondriac. Hey, I know that word.

You’ll have to read the Arthritis Foundation article yourself to get the full flavor, but Dr. Hassett says “signs that overfocusing has become a mental health concern are preoccupation with minor physical complaints, seeking repeated physical exams and tests, extensively researching a condition, feeling that doctors and specialists don’t understand the problem, and seeking constant reassurance…”

Is it me? Or does that sound a little bit like being part of an RA blog or forum? When I read the definition to my kids, I asked them, “What does this describe?” They thought it sounded like your average RA patient. Ouch.

“Overfocusing” for survival?

Did you ever see the Twilight Zone? Imagine with me for a moment…

A doctor diagnoses you with a disease that will slowly eat away at you like an alien force inside your body. The disease is completely invisible, but the doctor gives you potent medicine. However, he never warns you what the side effects might be or gives you ways to cope in case they raise their ugly head.

Should you be more afraid of the disease or the medicine? You don’t know where to begin, but you have to find answers. They’re not in the newspaper. They’re not on television. Your bff doesn’t know what to tell you.

Of course, you go online to “extensively research.” What other window to the world do you have? You can read case studies and journal articles or abstracts. You can compare hospital sites to forums and message boards. New news, old news, good news, bad news, it’s all there for you to sort through.

The doctor sounds like he doesn’t want you to go to the dreaded internet where you might find something that would challenge his authority. But frankly, isn’t it like he put you in the backseat with a blindfold on and drove you there and dropped you off? Maybe you’re lost – or maybe you are about to be found – in the Twilight Zone.

Coming soon, we’re asking more about measuring pain threshold and wondering what doctors think: “Does Rheumatoid Arthritis Pain Really Hurt That Much?

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Kelly Young. All rights reserved.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, February 10th, 2010 at 7:09 am and is filed under Living with RA / Managing RA. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


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