For the last 10 years, I’ve had a variety of aches and pains associated with mild to moderate rheumatoid arthritis (RA). When I was first diagnosed with RA, I wondered if the pain in my feet and hands would ever get better.

After finally determining a reason for my pain I started a treatment plan and gradually… most of my pain issues resolved. The treatment allowed me to eventually return to normal physical activities.

About four years ago, I took a summer vacation that consisted of daily hikes on some challenging paths. A few days after my return, I developed severe hip pain. I tried some over-the-counter pain medications, but the pain worsened to the point that walking was nearly impossible.

I went to the local emergency room and despite my efforts to advocate for myself, I was sent home with the same level of pain and a prescription for narcotic pain medication. I wasn’t provided an actual diagnosis or reason for my pain and I was instructed to follow up with my family physician.

After seeing my GP, and undergoing a variety of diagnostic testing, I was diagnosed with an “overuse injury” to my hip. At that point I was referred to a sports medicine physician that finally took the time to listen to my story and to explain the results of my MRI.

My sports medicine physician devised a treatment plan that included medication, physical therapy including water therapy, and acupuncture for pain control.

What My Treatment Plan Looked Like:

  • I participated in both land and water physical therapy exercises three times a week.
  • I began weekly acupuncture treatments and monthly massage therapy for myofascial release.
  • During these treatments I transitioned from using a walker, to a cane, and finally walked without an assistive device.
  • Acupuncture provided more pain relief than any of the medications I was provided.
  • Physical therapy improved my muscle strength and mobility.

What This Meant For Me:

The combination of all the treatments allowed me to return back to my usual routine. The injury taught me to stay engaged in regular physical activity in an effort to prevent a similar injury in the future. I continue to rely on monthly massages for myofascial release. I have also returned for additional acupuncture treatments for flare-ups of pain in my neck, back, and legs.  

What I Learned About Alternative Pain Treatments:

  • I try to be more aware of my stress levels that tend to contribute to the onset of back and neck pain.
  • There are many alternative therapies for pain control. Medications aren’t the only option you have for relief of pain (regardless of what you’re initially told).
  • I encourage everyone with pain to advocate for yourself and ask your healthcare provider what non-medicinal options are available to help you.

If you’re not comfortable doing that for yourself, consider hiring a healthcare advocate like me, who’ll go along with you to appointments, provide you with questions to ask the doctor, and offer support and another set of ears to take in all of the information.

Have you had a similar experience with managing pain or needing a healthcare advocate? Please send your comments!