Psoriatic Arthritis and Mobility Aids
It was the fall of 2019 and the pain in my back and hip was worse than ever. After sitting at my desk for a couple of hours, I found that I was unstable on my feet. There were times when I could not trust that my back would provide the support that I needed to walk.
People were starting to notice that I was stumbling. When walking to a meeting at the end of the hall, one of my colleagues noticed that I was struggling to keep up and was starting to become frustrated by the walk. She quietly walked by my side, allowing me to take her arm for support.
At that same time, my rheumatologist and I realized that the workday was far too difficult for me. Even managing to get in and out of my large office building was a struggle, never mind the day of work. Managing the expectation of being productive and not focusing all my energy on my pain seemed impossible. I took some time off work to allow my body time to recover. I have still not returned.
My rheumatologist referred me to physical therapy where we started out in the warm water pool. It was the only activity that didn’t cause added pain to my lower back and hip. In fact, it felt wonderful! However, coming out of the pool was very difficult and my therapist prescribed a cane so that I would have the stability that my body needed.
What will people think of me?
I was ashamed for people to see me walk with a cane. My husband and I went for a walk around the block one evening. My hip gave out, it failed to support me, and if my husband hadn’t been there, I would have fallen. I realized then that it was unsafe for me to walk without a cane.
A few months later, my pain management doctor prescribed Lyrica for nerve pain. One of the rare side effects of Lyrica is muscle weakness, and it took a few weeks to realize that I was suffering from this side effect. During this time, I had become so weak that a cane was not sufficient to support me.
My doctor prescribed a walker. I knew that I could not walk without it, but it was very embarrassing. If I thought that someone I knew might see me using it, I would text them to warn them prior to seeing me. I didn’t want to see a look of pity on the faces of any of my friends.
Friends won't judge us when we need help
I have become so accustomed to my cane that I no longer feel any type of shame because of it. I think it took some time to recover from the shame I felt. Plus, and this is a big point that I want you to understand - nobody else cares. Sometimes when something feels like a big deal, we think it’s a big deal to everyone. People who care about us just want to see that we’re doing well and they don’t judge us for needing help.
It feels amazing to know that I have a device to give me some extra support when I’m walking. I have three of them now, one pink, two different shades of blue. One of these days, I’m going to buy myself a nice wooden cane with a black tip so I’ll feel fancy. What I’m trying to tell you is that I appreciate the accessory that my cane has become. Plus, in this time of COVID-19, I have a tool to ensure that people maintain a 6’ distance. I haven’t used it that way, but I think about it!
There is nothing stopping me
If I needed to use a walker again, I would do it without hesitation. My husband and I love to travel and hope that we will be able to travel again soon. Because of my chronic pain caused by psoriatic arthritis, I have been concerned about my ability to travel.
Now I know that there are mobility devices available to me to make travel easier. There is nothing stopping me from seeing the world just like everyone else.
Do you have any questions about life with psoriatic arthritis?