Most people don’t understand chronic pain and how it affects a person’s life. They will never understand until it happens to them. I don’t wish that on anyone! Most chronic pain sufferers have at least one well-meaning friend who is always trying to find a cure for their ailment or pain. The effort is much appreciated but it’s all in vain. Most of us with chronic pain have tried just about everything…because…do you think we WANT to live with debilitating pain? Of course we don’t! We have tried almost everything we can to make our lives more bearable, to no avail.
I have Osteoarthritis and Degenerative Bone Disease, specifically in my knees. I am in Stage 4, which results in the loss of cartilage in the joint. There is NO CURE, only treatments to manage the symptoms. The bone-on-bone friction associated with this can cause severe symptoms, such as:
- Swelling/Inflammation – Synovial fluid can increase, which normally helps reduce friction with movement but large amounts can cause swelling in the joint. Fragments of broken cartilage can cause increased swelling and pain.
- Severe Pain – Pain during movement, and during rest and sleep. By the end of the day, after use of the joints, more swelling occurs and pain is increased.
- Decreased Range of Motion – Movements are slow, with stiffness and pain making it hard to enjoy daily activities.
- Joint Instability – The joints become less stable; knees can “lock up” or just plain give out, which can result in a fall or injury.
- Weakened Muscles – As joints continue to wear down the muscles become weaker, bone spurs can develop and bone deformity can occur. (My legs are bowed, more so the left.) With weakened muscles also comes an increased risk of falls.
Some of the words I have used to describe my pain are sharp, gnawing, throbbing, stabbing, burning, excruciating, grinding, locking, stiffness, dull, tightening, and debilitating. Sounds fun, ‘eh?
This disease causes severe pain but also affects your life in other ways:
- Sleep Disturbances – Interferes with restorative sleep. It’s difficult to find a comfortable position, and it’s painful to even move.
- Weight Gain – With chronic pain, you tend to move less so it’s easier to put on extra weight. Pain makes it difficult to exercise or just have an active life.
- Anxiety and Depression – With chronic pain you tend to have difficulties performing normal everyday tasks like cleaning and laundry, showering, dressing, grocery shopping, walking, reaching, cooking, stairs, standing in lines, and much more. These are things we take for granted when we’re physically able; we don’t even think twice when doing them. When those simple little tasks become a struggle, it has a negative effect on our mental health. Enter depression and anxiety. It’s all so exhausting!
So, I guess I’m just trying to help others understand the struggle of living with a debilitating disease and chronic pain. Everyone’s struggle might be different but we are all the same. We are suffering, even if we don’t show it on the outside. We try to hide it from others. We try to be “normal” like everyone else. Some days we try. Sometimes we succeed. Sometimes we fail.
Some days, we just CAN’T.