We have all experienced different levels of pain, but how do you know when enough is enough?
Chronic pain, the pain you live with because of a long-term condition (joint issues, disease), takes its toll on your body and your psyche in many ways. It’s like your body’s alarm system constantly going off which puts your nervous system on alert and activates cascade of stress responses.
Besides feeling the pain, your body may also react to the pain by feeling tired, mood changes, lack of hunger, sleep disruption, weakness, and low energy.
Here’s the thing, you may experience some or all of those symptoms (pain plus other affects) but the key for me is the point at which the chronic pain changes lifestyle activities to an unacceptable level. Along the way you’ve probably made smart choices to protect yourself – perhaps you’ve reduced how much you do it or eliminate it all together….
Reducing the sports you love
Eliminating high impact activities
And then low to no impact activities you have left start to also cause pain
And finally basic daily movement becomes troublesome
Somewhere in that scale of reduction to trouble with basic daily movement you may say “enough” – of course you should talk with your doctor about options. Living with pain is exhausting.
My own choices? That is my story, above.
The three best things you can do before you call “enough” are
1) Strength training –
2) Non-impact movement (like cycling or swimming), and
3) Stay a healthy weight. Carrying excess weight is hard on your weight-bearing joints (the joint impact from walking is 2 – 3X your body weight, so if you are carrying extra weight you can do the math to see that heightened stress in your joint). If you need to lose 10, 20, 50 lbs or more, doing so may save your joints.
Do you just keep pushing through the pain? To me that answer comes with what you are willing to accept for quality of life.
After you have done all that you can to keep your body moving, if you get to the point that your quality of life is suffering, it may be time to call it. To take the next step, whatever that may be… cortisone shot, PRP injections, stem cell application, or surgery. I encourage you to do all that you can do and save surgery as the last resort.
I was born with a rare condition in my knees, and I finally called it for my left knee after 7 surgeries (aimed at maintaining function), loss of sports that I loved (running, skiing), 32 years of living with severe arthritis, and now reduction in basic function. I’ve always said that if I can’t ride my bike – my last remaining sport – I would become a mean and nasty person. Rather than that, I’m having my knee replaced with a “custom” replacement by a company called Conformis on November 9, 2017 (I have exciting news about that in the video – be sure to watch to the end!)
This was a pretty traumatic decision for me. I feel like I have spent my entire life trying to preserve my knee and now am I giving up? No – my quality of life has been reduced to such a state that I cannot bear more pain and reduce more activities. Replacing my knee scares me but also gives me hope that I will be able to return to some of the activities I love.
Since I am only 56 – and plan to live to 100 – I understand that I will likely have my knee replaced one more time. I’ll have a span of 44 years that my new knees will need to function and so I will need to make good choices to support longevity while still enjoying life. I know this can be done – for me and for you too!