6 suggestions from a UC veteran with joint pain
Not all IBD patients suffer from joint pain or IBD-related arthritis. For those that do, it can be one of the most debilitating challenges of living with Crohn’s or colitis. It can also be challenging because most assume that IBD is a “pooping disease” but in all actuality, IBD can affect the whole body, including the skeletal system. Here is some advice from a veteran colitis patient who has suffered from joint pain for the majority of her diagnosis:
1. Talk with your doctor. Your Gastroenterologist should be informed on how to help their IBD patients with joint pain concerns, such as prescribe anti-inflammatory medications or refer the patient to a Rheumatologist. It is not uncommon for an IBD patient to have both a GI and a Rheumatologist. Your primary care physician can be a part of this team as well.
2. Incorporate light movement daily in your routine. I know this is the last thing most of us want to do, especially when factoring in autoimmune fatigue, but light physical movement, such as walking the dog, stretching, beginner’s yoga or pilates can make a world of difference in your joint and muscle pain. Finding low impact exercises like swimming is key when living with arthritis.
3. Ask your GI, primary care physician, or Rheumatologist to write a referral for physical therapy, osteopathic manipulation therapy, or some related form of massage work (of course if insurance allows.) There are also some places in urban areas that provide sliding scale fee-for-service acupuncture and similar therapies too. An osteopath or physical therapist can help with correcting posture and gait which can help your joint pain in the long run. Massage work can be immensely helpful, if available. Getting blood flow to those areas is critical!
4. Hot Epsom salt baths (I prefer lavender or eucalyptus scents) do wonders for muscle pain and inflammation-related joint pain. The magnesium in the Epsom salt baths helps relax the muscles. Trust me, this is a game-changer. I also like to utilize my heating pad for sore joints when I do not have access to a bathtub.
5. Topicals for the skin, such as products like Tiger Balm or a quality high-CBD cream, can assist in temporary inflammatory relief. I like to have these on hand (no pun intended) as my arthritis randomly flares up, or is predisposed to a flare-up if I lift something incorrectly.
6. Find support! Find other IBD patients that struggle with joint pain! There are a lot of us out there that struggle with IBD-related arthritis or have a diagnosis of both IBD and Rheumatoid Arthritis/Psoriatic Arthritis. Regardless of the form of autoimmune arthritis, we all can understand the challenges and complexities that joint pain can bring. Having others that can relate, especially when you receive the “Aren’t you too young to have arthritis?! Isn’t that an old person disease!?” is critical during our chronic illness journey.
I hope these tips help and remember to keep moving, even if fatigue and joint pain tell you otherwise! You got this!
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