As of my naturopath appointment today, I've had three medical opinions that corroborate each other: My pain condition is entirely concurrent with the presentation of spinal osteophytes and degeneration (which extend into my hips). Oh, and I'm "very young to be dealing with this degree of osteoarthritis". According to everyone in the know, this must have been in active development for many years.
I don't want you to think that I've ignored this issue. Yeah, I didn't do the one thing that might have got me to a diagnosis sooner (full X ray panel), but then I really didn't think - in a zillion years - that this could have been what's going on. Sure, I worried I might be dying or managing a terrible degenerative disease (yes, I know arthritis is a degenerative disease and that it can be terrible), but arthritis is much more boring - and mercifully treatable - than the kinds of things I imagined. I did visit the doctor many times, but apparently I didn't explain things in language she could understand until my symptomology had become quite pronounced. My early visits were punctuated by vagueness, due to no fault of my own.
I said, in my last post on this topic, that arthritis doesn't run in my family. Well, apparently, it's best not to gain these details from my mother because she only considers her family history when providing intel. You'll be happy to know that she was tested, after chemo and radiation, to confirm that her bone health hadn't been adversely affected by cancer treatment and she learned, at that time, that, at 66, she had "the spine of a 26 year old". I don't know how one gets that degree of detail about spinal age but she was very pleased to learn about this, braggy even. Yeah, I know, I'm all sour grapes, but c'mon. I really hope, given that she has high cholesterol and young bones, and I have normal cholesterol and old bones, that I'm genetically distinct enough to avoid that triple negative breast cancer I've got a 50-50 chance of getting. If it's a deal, I'll take it.
Since then, my mum and I have continued our conversation, wherein I have reminded her of my father's neck surgery (@15 years ago - he received a bit of metal to do the job of discs that had stopped working), and my paternal grandmother's hip replacements (x2) due to falls and breaks that removed her from her independence in the last years of her life. At that point my mother remembered that 2 of my 3 paternal uncles are in constant, intense back pain that severely compromises their mobility and quality of life. They're approaching 70 but it's been going on for years. Why no one thought to mention this sooner is beyond me. I mean, it's not like I haven't been in hideous discomfort, on and off, for many years now. And it's not like I suffer in silence?!?
Look, this is all good. This information has already improved the quality of my life substantively. For starters, I'm having my Vit. D levels tested (my gene presentation indicates I need more than the average person) so that I'll know how much I need to take to ensure that my bones can absorb calcium far better than they do now. I already supplement with Vit. D but it's likely I'm going to need to take a lot more.
My yoga traction wall has been pretty close to life-changing. Even though I'm absurdly busy, and mentally over tasked right now, by carving out 20 minutes a day for partial or full hanging, I can diminish pain from an 7 out of 10 to a 1 out of 10 - and that reprieve generally lasts 12 hours.
I've been shockingly pro-cruciferous veg. No, I don't like them any more than I did 2 weeks ago, but now I'm viewing them as medicine. Plus, in restaurants they tend to be quite tasty. Also, three words: homemade cheese sauce.
I continue on my low-inflammation path with the supplements I was taking before, plus some new ones. Also, I drink fresh-pressed turmeric and ginger shots like an elite athlete. My juice budget is out of control.
Moreover, surprising even to me, I haven't eaten a bag of chips or crappy carbs for a week and a half. Yeah, I'm still eating chocolate - and I've upped my pistachio usage by like 100% - but I'm staying away from the inflammatory stuff because, seriously, I've got a measurable reason to do so. If I can reverse and/or control this situation, I'm going to do it. Feeling 80 every morning is not on.
Perhaps most meaningfully of all my tips and tricks, I've changed my attitude about pain. I feel it, but I refuse to listen to it. It's fear that that empowers a chronic pain brain-loop, but now I know what's going on. And knowledge is power. So I say "fuck-you" to pain multiple times a day, and it sure isn't doing me any harm.
On the positive side, my hormone panel came back and, rather surprisingly, I'm in very good shape on that account. Yeah, my estrogen is slightly higher than that of a pre-perimenopausal woman (like by a few points) and my estrogen is slightly lower (like by 4 points), but this is pretty small potatoes in the scheme of things. At my age, it's not unusual to experience hideous estrogen-dominance associated with all kinds of nasty perimenopausal shit. At this point, I get the occasional hot flash (no more night sweats) and I'm bitchy (but that could just be my personality). Yeah, I know it is taking a toll on my figure but I'm even getting over that. I mean, gorgeous is as gorgeous does. And I won't be in hormonal flux forever. I'm pretty sure I've got time and means to lose a bit of abdominal girth once transition subsides. Not to mention that, if I finally do eschew the carbs for medical reasons, it's going to be that much harder to hold onto unnecessary weight.
Look at me being all optimistic! The more I live, the more I realize that I've got to manage diet-induced inflammation if I want to a) be pain-free and b) slim. I think this has finally hit home. But you know how I don't believe in peaking early. So let's not get attached. :-)