The Arthritis Newsletter

Fall 2015

Newly Diagnosed with Inflammatory Arthritis: What will happen, and how you'll cope.

By Gerry Sheanh



While there is no doubt that a new diagnosis of any one of the hundred forms of arthritis might cause uncertainty, fear and a sense of diminished capacity, such concerns are at least partly allayed by achieving a few key understandings about the disease, its probable effects and how to cope. Finding your way through the seeming maze of medical information, lists of practical tips and bogus claims for cures will be no easy task, but you must first try to achieve a few basic understandings about what you can expect, and how you can cope.


Dealing with a new diagnosis is all about finding balance in your journey with arthritis. That and acceptance of certain realities that are not only not going away, but will likely intensify as the condition follows its progression of symptoms. Here are five ideas that should prove helpful in thinking and planning for a life wherein arthritis will now have a number of impacts on your day-to-day life.


1. You will experience bouts of pain brought on by inflammation. In varying degrees, pain, heat, swelling and redness will likely reduce your mobility, flexibility and stamina. Your goal will probably be to reduce inflammation and thereby reduce pain and stiffness. You will likely be prescribed a medication to assist in combating inflammation, and perhaps physical therapy to maintain flexibility and range of motion. Overall, you will find that a combination of medication, exercise, sufficient sleep and a sensible diet will help deal with the pain.


2. You will experience reduced ability to participate in activities you formerly enjoyed. There will be times when normal physical function will be limited, which may limit your ability to work outside the home or to parent to the extent you’d like. Some of us experience great difficulty in accepting that we are less capable than we expect to be, but it is crucial to avoid thinking of ourselves as defective or no longer useful. The simple fact is that we have a condition that may limit us, but shouldn’t immobilize us.


3. You will probably require some adaptations to your job if it requires physical skills that are now more difficult or impossible. The hard reality for some of us who work at jobs requiring strength, agility or flexibility, severe arthritis may mean a complete change of job. Most employers will work with you to make adaptations that will allow you to continue working, and it is important to think about such changes in a positive way. If an ergonomic workstation or flexible scheduling or job sharing allows you to continue being gainfully employed, it’s a win-win for both the employer and you.


4. You will experience two kinds of people: The first is comprised of empathic people who understand your pain and limitations because they have also experienced health issues. These people will typically be fine with making adaptations for you. The second is made up of people who tell you how their old Aunt Mary cured arthritis using apple cider vinegar or celery seed tea. They will seem to have a vague idea that having arthritis is like having a bruised apple that can be made acceptable by carefully removing the brown spots. You can embrace the first group, even while politely ignoring the second.


5. You will likely experience all of the emotions associated with loss (anger, denial, bargaining, depression and acceptance) in any order or
combination, and for varying durations. To be told you have a degenerative disease that is incurable evokes strong emotional responses in people. You can, and probably will, feel angry that this disease has visited you. You may think that if you ignore the symptoms and fight through the pain that the doctor is probably wrong and you don’t have arthritis. You may think that if you do this or that (which has been recommended by friends and relatives) that you can somehow beat arthritis. You may also fall prey to a severe depression that sees yourself as diminished, defective, useless, or any other negative self-image that isn’t helpful. Finally, you may achieve acceptance of having arthritis, but this may take a long time. It is a journey, with ever-shifting conditions, but one you don’t have to take alone.

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