Late winter in 2002, my life was finally coming together. I remember the day clearly. It was February and I was busy exercising and building muscle for what was soon to be my new career. The three months before had been filled with hope and optimism. I successfully passed the written exam, aced the physical agility course and had shined in my interview with the Police Department. I was on the list and on my way to my future.
Midday that Sunday afternoon was a typical Sunday for me. I was working on strengthening my legs when I felt a pop in my left knee. It became swollen, red and painful. Thinking this was a mild injury, I laid off, kept it iced and treated it with over the counter medications.
After a month, the swelling had not only not dissipated but had increased. The pain now severe, I sought medical help. The standard series of X-Rays and blood work showed nothing out of the ordinary and I was sent on my way with what they believed was a sprained knee.
Two months later, my knee was the size of a grapefruit,. The pain was horrible and I had lost the ability to bend it at all. Two MRIs later and my doctors decided they needed to look inside, check out the damage and drain the excess fluid, which they did successfully. My ordeal was far from over.
About two months after the operation, my right knee began the same painful process of swelling, pain and bruising. Far worse than my left knee, which was giving me problems with pain and mobility. This time around my doctors performed bone density tests on both knees which returned cloudy results. They decided the right knee needed to be drained and I underwent another surgery.
The recovery process seemed to make everything worse and physical therapy proved to be fruitless as the physical exertion only seemed to inflame, swell and cause more pain to my knees. It was at this point that I was referred to a Rheumatologist. My Rheumatologist immediately ceased my physical therapy and began exploring other options.
As my condition(s) were still, at this point, without diagnosis, my doctor settled on a cause: Osteoarthritis. While I was really young to be experiencing this, my Mother's ailment's led him to believe it was genetic. So, he began a treatment regimen that was related to arthritis instead of anything orthopedic.
I was advised the over the years the arthritis would spread and it has done just that. Now in my neck, fingers and spine, it has left me with sever pain, limited mobility and open to falls, sprains, strains and dislocations, which happen frequently.
My health plan went from recovery and rehabilitation to management. It was a grim realization that I more than likely would be dealing with this for the rest of my life but I stayed positive and that frame of mind is extremely critical when dealing with arthritic conditions. It can be seriously depressing, the lack of mobility, the pain and the limitations. It's always good to talk to your doctor about your mood.
What has been helpful to me is moderate exercise. There are plenty of options out there that you can do to help your joints. Low-impact walking helps my knees stay loose. Short distances on level terrain are ideal, with shoes that are designed for walking. Talk to your doctor about supplements such as Glucosamine Chondroiton. Different people have different results. Personally, I didn't notice any difference after three months of taking it. If you're going to try it, take it consistently or you won't have a true ideas to its effectiveness.
Last but not least. During flares of inflammation, apply ice packs to the effected joint. Do this consistently. One time, here and there, is not going to be effective. Rest, rest, rest! Rest your joints. Activity, use and friction all worsen inflammation. Don't overdo it. Know your limits and stay on top of your condition.
It amazes me that I have been living with Osteoarthritis for 12 years. It hit me young and has worsened over the years, but it has not become my identity. There are things I can no longer do, but I choose to stay focused on the things I can do.