Living with Degenerative Arthritis and Spine Stenosis: My Personal Story

Living with degenerative arthritis in both legs and spine stenosis can be an overwhelming and life-altering experience. Personally, this journey began 32 years ago, and since then, I have experienced both physical and emotional challenges. In this narrative, I aim to share my personal story, showing my daily struggles, the impacts on my family, and the strategies I have adopted to navigate these difficult diagnoses.

Before delving into my current reality, it is essential to understand the nature of these conditions. Degenerative arthritis, often called osteoarthritis, occurs when the protective cartilage that cushions the ends of bones wears down over time. I have it in both knees and both hips, due to the damage I did when I jumped 32 feet. This degradation leads to stiffness, swelling, and intense joint pain, every day. On the other hand, spinal stenosis, both cervical and lumbar, refers to the narrowing of the spaces within the spine, which consequently puts pressure on the nerves, causing pain, weakness, and numbness in the left side down to my left leg. Nerve pain is terrible!

I have had arthritis since 1993 and was waiting for knee replacements, to be followed by hip replacements but the recent diagnoses of lumbar stenosis put a stop to all that. I found out in July 2023 that my back isn’t strong enough to support the recovery needed for joint replacements in my knees and hips. My legs are not strong enough either for recovery from back surgery even if I qualified for it. I have been referred to a spine surgeon but they don’t think anything can be done for me. The Doctor told me that immobility would come and I would need a wheelchair within the next couple of years.

In recent months, my mobility has deteriorated to the point where I can’t walk much anymore. Hubby and I went out Saturday, was gone for an hour and a half, and by the time I got home, the left side of my back was on fire. It is more common these days than it ever was. I have an appointment with my doctor in a couple of weeks to discuss my options.

In addition to my physical symptoms, there is an added emotional burden that accompanies living with these conditions. The reality of waking up every day to debilitating pain, knowing it will be a constant companion limiting my daily adventures, can be mentally exhausting. The limitations imposed by these conditions can lead to a loss of identity, a sense of isolation, and even depression. The feeling of helplessness, unable to control my body’s limitations, can be overwhelming at times. But you know what? I persevere!

The impacts of my conditions extend far beyond my own experience. One of the most challenging aspects has been their effect on my family dynamics. My spouse has had to adapt, often taking on additional responsibilities to ensure that I can focus on managing my pain. Taking care of household chores, running errands, and even managing their own emotions, my family has stepped up to support me in unimaginable ways. My children are awesome!

Despite the struggles that come with degenerative arthritis and spinal stenosis, I have found solace in a few strategies that have helped me navigate this difficult journey. As a result, I have been able to find glimpses of joy and a sense of peace amidst the chaos. First and foremost, accepting my conditions and embracing the support of my loved ones has been crucial. Realizing that I am not alone in this battle has been a powerful reassurance.

Actively seeking out information and understanding my conditions has been a game-changer. By educating myself about degenerative arthritis and spinal stenosis, even the recurring cancer I have, I have been able to advocate for my own health and make informed decisions about treatment options. Additionally, connecting with support groups and engaging in conversations with individuals facing similar challenges has provided a valuable sense of community. Through these connections, I have discovered coping strategies, helpful resources, and a sense of validation that can only come from others who genuinely understand the complexities of living with chronic pain.

Armed with knowledge and support, I have explored various treatment options to manage the symptoms of arthritis and spine stenosis. Physical therapy has been instrumental in improving my mobility, strengthening my muscles, and reducing pain levels. The exercises I learned during the GLA:D program were very useful! Despite the initial skepticism, incorporating low-impact exercises into my daily routine has proven to be a small victory. Meanwhile, medications prescribed by my healthcare provider have helped to alleviate pain and manage inflammation. Nonetheless, these treatments are not without side effects, which further complicates the delicate balance between pain management and maintaining overall well-being. I really hate taking pills!

While medication and physical therapy have provided some relief, I have also discovered alternative approaches that complement traditional medical treatments. Exploring the potential benefits of acupuncture, massage therapy, and even herbal remedies has offered another layer of support on my healing journey. Although not all alternative treatments have provided long-lasting relief, the moments of respite they have offered have made a significant difference in my quality of life.

Living with degenerative arthritis and spinal stenosis has taught me resilience, patience, and the importance of self-care. I have grown to appreciate the little victories, such as being able to take a walk without excruciating pain or enjoying a peaceful night’s sleep. While my physical limitations continue to pose challenges every day, the mental and emotional strength gained from this journey has made me a more compassionate and empathetic individual. My strength in dealing with my physical ailments has helped me greatly with my mental health!

My personal story of living with degenerative arthritis and spinal stenosis has been a rollercoaster ride filled with physical and emotional hurdles. Despite the constant pain and the limitations these conditions impose, I have found ways to navigate this challenging path. Acceptance, support from loved ones, education, and exploring a range of treatment options have helped me regain a semblance of control in this unpredictable journey. I continue to cherish the moments of respite, finding strength in my own resilience, and determining that my conditions will not define my life or dampen my spirit.

How do you deal with your medical diagnoses? Any suggestions on dealing with arthritis, as I am sure there are some I never heard of? Is anyone else dealing with Spinal Stenosis? I never heard of it before, not till I was diagnosed in 2015. Any feedback is appreciated!

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