Rock, meet hard place.

That’s how I feel today after waking to a fourth day of a severe bursitis flare coupled with RA joint aches and twinges all over my body.

On Tuesday, I went to the gym early in the morning, then spent the day at my aunt and uncle’s place, grocery shopping and cooking meals. Got back to mom’s around 6 p.m. and threw together a light dinner for both of us. I’m always tired in the evenings after doing this, but on Tuesday night, I was truly exhausted. My hips ached and my hands were twingy, but that’s de rigueur. Usual. Nothing new.

But on Wednesday morning I woke up wiped out. I hurt, literally, everywhere. Now, I’ve read in other RA blogs about whole-body flares. And I was very glad that I’d never experienced such a thing. Having a single large joint flared badly is hard enough—a knee, a shoulder, a great toe, my jaw—but I couldn’t even begin to imagine having joints all over me flared all at the same time.

Well, I can imagine it now.

I can’t quite believe I’m saying this, but even hurting all over like I was, I was lucky. None of my aggravated, throbbing joints flared to the point of immobilizing me. On Wednesday, I experienced a kind of flare that I’ve never had before, but I was still able to move around and take care of myself, even though I limped and winced and whined under my breath the whole time. Fortunately, it was a good day for Mom. She got to mama-hen me for a change, which we both enjoyed.

Along with Wednesday’s weird pain came another RA symptom I’ve had little experience with: fatigue. While I hadn’t slept very well the night before, it surprised me. I’ve always been able to function reasonably well in spite of limited sleep. (I think back to the long months of insomnia I went through as my rheumatologist slowwwwwly increased the dosage of the drowsy-making anti-depressant drug he’d prescribed for me as a sleep aid before it finally worked.) But this fatigue went far beyond the kind that follows simple sleeplessness. On Wednesday I felt like I’d climbed a 9,000-foot mountain to the summit overnight. I had the energy of a nearly depleted smart-phone battery.

I’d told myself when I first got up that once the morning dose of thank-the-gods-I-have-them pain-pills kicked in, I’d decide whether to go to the gym. I felt like roadkill, but I really didn’t want to skip my workout. It had been making me feel so good! But by 10 a.m., with the pain med’s effects peaking, I knew I couldn’t peddle the bike for 20 minutes or do a circuit on the weight machines. I doubted that I could even make it out to my car, as knackered, achy and foggy as I was. Glumly, I gave myself a day off from the gym. I dragged my sorry, aching arse back upstairs and into my bed.

I slept like the dead for five hours.

When I woke, I was still in the jaws of that whole-body RA and bursitis flare, but the intensity was down a bit. That killer fatigue was mostly gone, leaving in its place a more familiar sensation of weariness. I spent what was left of the day resting, sticking mostly to the recliner. I read several more chapters of “The Tiger’s Wife.” I surfed the Intertubes for a while, reading blogs, commenting here and there, and surfing the news of the day. I watched reruns of Mom’s favorite crime shows on TV with her. And I went to bed early. I needed to be back at my aunt and uncle’s house Thursday morning no matter how rotten I felt. They were depending on me.

I was still weary, my hips achy and my hands twinging, when I got up. But overall, I was feeling much improved. I skipped the gym again, though, not wanting to rock the boat. I did everything I needed to do, but I did it slowly and mindfully, and did no more than was necessary. The day passed slowly. I came home that evening exhausted again. Cooked and ate dinner with Mom, and crashed in the recliner.

Yesterday was almost a carbon copy of Wednesday. The main difference? I didn’t have that crushing fatigue on top of the all-over flare, thank goodness. And once again I skipped my workout at the gym. I simply couldn’t face it. Walking further than to the kitchen and back felt beyond my capabilities.

And now it’s today. I slept fairly well, but I’m still stuck in that flare. The overall pain level is moderate, which is an improvement, but once again I’m whupped, energy-wise. I feel like my body might tolerate a workout—maybe a half-workout instead of a full one—but even though it’s almost noon, I haven’t been able to force myself out the door.

And this is my rock and hard place. I hate that I don’t have the willpower to go the gym, which is only five minutes away. And frankly, I’m embarrassed. Mike the fitness guy will be there. He’ll know I haven’t worked out in several days. I know, rationally, that what he thinks doesn’t matter, that I need to listen to my body. I know that pushing myself to work out when my joints are flaring can only injure me and put me out of commission even longer. I’d certainly rather not aggravate the trochanter bursae in my stupid hips, as that pain, too, can be devastating. Still, I’m embarrassed. I don’t want to be yet another middle-aged, overweight, flabby woman with no willpower in his eyes—or my own. If I stay away from the gym yet another day—one during which I’m feeling better than I have all week, even if I’m fatigued and sore—it’ll be even harder to go tomorrow, as I’ll be even more ashamed of myself. And yet … and yet. I don’t want to make myself hurt more.

There’s still plenty of Saturday left. I may go, I may not. It’s almost time for another pain pill. Maybe once it’s working well, I’ll do it. A half-session. A half-hour. Wish me luck.

10 thoughts on “Rock, meet hard place.

  1. WOW. I am exactly where you are at the moment…been in a constant state of body aches, joint pain/discomfort and overall tiredness for a couple of weeks now. I have been trying to soldier through and continue to work out but I finally realized I need to at least moderate my workout to accommodate this new situation…loved the graphic…may borrow it for my blog it that is OK? take care…thanks for letting me know I am not alone…healing thoughts…


  2. Thanks, Nan. Amazing that we’re both facing this conundrum, but it IS nice to know I’m not alone. Feel free to use any graphic you wish, anytime.

    I hope you’ll be feeling better very soon!


  3. I am wondering if you have a gym with a swimming pool near you or maybe a YMCA? I am truly sorry you are in this bear of a flare right now and I agree that exercise is critical for those us with these drat chronic diseases but I am also wondering if maybe the balance of this new workout program isn’t so balanced for you and your body. Best to take it slow…slow and steady won the race. Remember the turtle and the hare story 🙂 We are the turtle 🙂 Feel better and soon!


  4. I am SO SORRY you’re having what I call “the full-body flip out.” It really is quite devastating.

    I’m a newbie on RA (diagnosed on Jan 31st), but what you experienced is EXACTLY what I’ve been experiencing for about a year. The fatigue and BRAIN FOG are killers for me, especially since I’m an academic and am supposed to be writing up my research on a regular basis. Nope, nada, zlich. Not going to happen until my RA is better controlled. Two weeks ago, I actually kicked off a massive flare walking from my office to a coffee shop and back (about 3/4 of mile total). That roached sleep for a few days, as well as having the other fun-filled symptoms.

    So, I’m grounded. I’m uber careful with what little walking I do. And the kicker? Because the RA isn’t under control right now, I’m still losing weight, no exercise, but I’m on MTX and prednisone.

    Anyway, can you check in with your rheumy to see if s/he has any bright ideas? And the trainer at the gym might also have some helpful ideas. I hope you feel better, SOON!


  5. So sorry that you are having so much pain. If you have to skip the gym than skip it. You know what you need. Hopefully your trainer understands, at least intellectually if not personally, the ups and downs of ra. Maybe he can show you some gently stretching to do while in a flare or other adjustments or maybe you just have to wait for this flare to move on. When I started to see a trainer I made sure they assigned someone who understood my needs. In addition to ra I have a neurological disorder that affects what I should do in my workout (think ms without the auto immune component). I know I have to have someone who can adjust a workout for these additional challenges or I could really irreversibly injure myself. I was lucky and they assigned someone who has an autoimmune disorder and understands what a flare is. That being said, I have had to adjust some of the things he put in my workout because they cause my neuro symptoms to flare. At the very least your trainer should have a basic knowledge about ra.
    I hope you feel better soon. Don’t push yourself too hard. It sounds like your days are pretty full without the workout but I know it is nice just to have a little time for you to work on your needs. Remember you know your body best and need to go with your gut instinct. Skipping a work out when you’re sick doesn’t make you lazy it makes you smart.


  6. Wren: I am so sorry and I hope you bounce back quickly. I rarely have single-joint flares — when I do flare it’s the all-over one similar to what you describe — along with the fatigue, so I empathize with how miserable you are. You can move around, but it really just doesn’t seem worth it. Take care of yourself. Sending hugs your way.


  7. Wren, I hope you are feeling better today. I am sorry you are feeling so badly. I know you don’t feel like it but sometimes getting out and doing a little exercise does help. Just don’t over do. I know the fatigue you are talking about and it sucks. I call it: can’t even lift the remote to change the channel on the TV fatigue! Sending my best.


  8. Fatigue is the worst. I can handle pain but the exhaustion is just crushing both to body and spirit. As for Mike the fitness guy- does he know that you are dealing with RA? Cause if so, not only will he get why you have not been there, but it’s time to put his money where his muscles are and suggest some modification that can let you still work out (gently moving- not full fledged work out) without aggravating everything.

    Be well soon. ❤


  9. Oh poor Wren!! I’m really sorry this has happened … there’s obviously NEVER a good time but it does seem especially rough when you were doing so fantastically with the gym. Still, this too will pass and then you can be back wowing us with your gyming prowess again – hopefully very soon!


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