Old guy has lots of pains..can you suggest help?
May 8, 2014 12:52 PM   Subscribe

a series of issues giving me lots of annoying pains making me feel awful...Help me feel better

Begin with age: nearly 85...suddenly back gave out...Move next to medical opinion: stenosis, lots and lots of arthritis in (mostly) left thigh, leg, some also on right. Add to this: bursitis.
Swollen ankles--still checking on cause for this.
Question: hurts. the otc stuff does nothing as relief.
got pills for inflamation and that helped but may then move on to needle a few times pezr year (epidurnal) but am not going to get surgery since the cure rate not very promising.

acupuncture? chiropractic? and yesm, waiting for medical pot to become available in my state.
posted by Postroad to Health & Fitness (18 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
What does your doctor say?
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:55 PM on May 8, 2014

I'm sorry you feel terrible. A thing that helped my stepfather's aches and pains (general achiness plus sciatica) was a hot bath with about a cup and a half of apple cider vinegar in it. I promise you will not smell like a pickle.
posted by blnkfrnk at 12:55 PM on May 8, 2014

I find hot baths to be soothing. Meditation is also supposed to help with chronic pain.

What does your doctor say about managing this pain?
posted by sockermom at 12:56 PM on May 8, 2014

have you tried/had any luck with cortisone shots for arthritis? it was a huge help for mine although i'm guessing yours is probably worse.
posted by elizardbits at 1:10 PM on May 8, 2014

I have arthritis in my feet, and when I asked a friend who'd had arthritis most of her life (finally diagnosed as rheumatoid arthritis), this is what she said:
Like everyone else, heat works best. I even now have a heating pad that lives at [a friend]'s place.

OTC ointments only work for so long before they stop, but I found rotating between different ones works well. Tiger Balm, Capsicum Cream (forget the brand name, it's in a red tube) and Icy Hot are all in the rotation along with Lush's Wiccy Magic Massage bar. I need to try the Sore Labors when it's back in stock.

The best treatment, which is impractical, heat and sleep
Other of my arthritic friends recommended heat, sometimes followed by ice, or just icing followed by gentle stretching. Warm to hot baths were recommended by several, as was wearing thick, warm socks to prevent arthritic legs from getting too cold.
posted by telophase at 1:15 PM on May 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

I consumed gelatin daily for two years to help with some of my joint/tendon/ligament issues.

Sea salt baths did a lot for some of my general issues of discomfort.

Consuming a less acid diet to reduce acidity of my tissues helped resolve inflammation.
posted by Michele in California at 1:36 PM on May 8, 2014

Swollen ankles could be caused by insufficient heart action. Did your doctor discuss this with you?
posted by Cranberry at 1:39 PM on May 8, 2014 [2 favorites]

There's a subreddit just for this:

I bet they will be responsive and as helpful as possible.
posted by NortonDC at 1:55 PM on May 8, 2014

I'm not sure where you're located, but my friend went through a program at RIC in Chicago and it helped her a lot. Perhaps a pain management program would be helpful for you.
posted by parakeetdog at 2:13 PM on May 8, 2014

Response by poster: thanks. ankles: had ultra sound and heart ok. tells me to use compression socks. I use this and that balm but wife says I smell terrible with it. an issue is ZI am not sure if pain in spots from arthritis and/or disc (stenosis pinching nerve)..did get pills for inflamation but may have to move up to epidurmal shot in spine.
when wife not around--work etc--I use DMSO and that helps
ah, waiting for pot to be legal as meds in my location
posted by Postroad at 3:29 PM on May 8, 2014

Acupuncture and chiropractic are both pretty quackery-riddled and don't have a lot of evidence to support their efficacy. You can not 'reduce acidity' or similar with diet. There's lots of bull surrounding joint pain; be wary and put stuff through scholar.google.com/a reliable physician first...

I find /r/chronicpain extremely whiny. There are not a lot of solutions there; more complaints and self-pity. An appropriate venue for venting but...

Find a way to find pot -- you can buy seeds on-line quite easily -- grind it and put it in a slow cooker with coconut oil, strain and put the resulting thing in empty capsules -- Google 'cannacaps' -- I live in a legal-medical-grass area, but unless you are in an unusually strict part of the world I would not hesitate to just law-break away for that in one's 80s, especially if you would enjoy being a poster boy for legalisation. The relief provided by "medibles" is considerable, and it comes with none of the difficult side effects of opiates...

...which I would also recommend. I have been attacked by a plague of ~itises in recent years and don't think there is any point to not taking advantage of opiates so long as you are aware of and prepared to manage the known pitfalls (most notably the tendency to require more over time for the same amount of relief -- I go off my meds, so to speak, periodically to try to 're-set').

I also take a blistering hot bath pretty regularly and recommend that, though I can't say I've ever found any additive (salts, etc) to be useful (though certainly a nice fragrance/moisturizer/etc isn't going to do anything bad). Topically, the only thing I am aware of with decent evidence suggesting it's worthwhile is topical diclofenac, sold in Canada as "Voltaren Emulgel." I hear it is a ridiculous price and Rx-only in the States. You could order on-line to the address of a Canadian MeFite who would be willing to forward the parcel on (PM away if I can be of use). Among other advantages to the Voltaren: it doesn't smell.

Have had above-mentioned cortisone shots -- they did nothing -- and that result seems uncommon enough that I would still recommend trying.

And heating pads and electric blankets are nice things to have. But mostly, given "hurts. the otc stuff does nothing" territory -- you want to inquire after the Rx-only stuff. I would encourage being aggressive, because once you get to the point where joint hassles are limiting your mobility you're in a crummy situation where stuff starts getting worse from lack of exercise. Much better, I feel, to be a bit spaced out (or spending all your money on Metamucil, or whatever) on pills and happily walking around than not on pills and sedentary.
posted by kmennie at 3:57 PM on May 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yeah, if you really want pot, you are 85. The judge is not likely to throw the book at you. I recall some couple where one of them was a free-bleeder and had gotten AIDS from the drug used to treat it (made from human blood) and they did something illegal or other because of all this crap (probably illegal related to the medical stuff, like use marijuana or something like that). After being found guilty of whatever crime or other, the judge sentenced them both to "community service" of "taking care of each other."

I seriously have trouble believing the court system will go all Judge Dredd on an 85 year old for illegally using marijuana for medicinal purposes. And, you know, you might not get caught anyway.
posted by Michele in California at 4:02 PM on May 8, 2014

But Michele, your username says it all. OP might be in a state that sucks. I grew up in Cali. I know that there are parts of Cali that are small-minded, and judges who would throw the book at an old guy. But there are entire states that make Bakersfield look liberal.

Postroad, my dad is in your age group and all of a sudden had to avoid salt in his diet - in a serious way. Like, you know, he'd ask himself the question "Hey, could one piece of pizza hurt?" and the answer would be "Yes, for weeks and weeks, it can hurt." But if he is scrupulous about avoid salt in his diet, he's okay. It's anecdata, I know, but I thought it worth posting.

(My dad would tell you to hit up the black market post haste, but he's fiesty like that.)
posted by BrunoLatourFanclub at 5:10 PM on May 8, 2014

I didn't say that because I am in Cali. I am so straight arrow about legal stuff, I considered asking the mods to delete my comment lest, you know, the police or someone come get me for saying it. I said it because I have a very miserable condition which is supposed to kill me and I did lots of stuff other people do not approve of. And I got better. And I no longer hurt so bad 24/7 that I want to die.

So let me put that another way: IF you are sure X thing will work and your misery is sufficient, maybe the potential consequences that people might find out and you might be charged with something is less bad than the actual guaranteed consequences of being a good boy and not doing anything because the one thing you know will work is illegal. Or might cause doctors to look down their noses at you. Or something.

As a rule of thumb for anyone living in misery and worrying lots about what doctors and police might think about them getting relief from unapproved methods.
posted by Michele in California at 5:20 PM on May 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: thanks for the good tips! I was going to try some Meth but heard it was a gateway drug that might lead to marijuana
posted by Postroad at 5:31 PM on May 8, 2014 [10 favorites]

As much sleep as you can possibly get. Heat pads. Some walking and really mild stretching if you can tolerate it. Don't do any crazy yoga moves or aggressive stretching--you're just as likely to hurt yourself if you do that. Have you tried all of the OTC NSAIDs? Some work better than others.

I have some arthritis & stenosis in my neck and have found that massage sometimes helps, especially chair massage (as opposed to lying on a massage table). Acupuncture and chiropractic are pure quackery (both of which I've paid good money for in the past, on multiple occasions, and have regretted every single time).

Sometimes a surgery like a foraminotomy to relieve pressure on nerve roots can be effective in relieving pain, and can be a lot less invasive that surgeries like fusions...but it sounds like you've considered all of this already.

Time. Sometimes you just wait things out and they get significantly better for no discernible reason. That's been the case with a couple of my chronic health conditions including arthritis. I've had periods that lasted for months where I was in awful pain 24/7, and never thought it would get better, and then eventually...it just got better.


Distraction. I particularly like reading create non-fiction/popular science about horrible human disease, suffering, and misery throughout the ages. Sometimes puts things into perspective. Watching Cosmos the other night did something similar for me.

Drugs. At a certain point with chronic pain that just won't resolve, I would consider asking a doctor for heavy duty pain medication, along with a plan to make sure I don't become dependent upon them.
posted by bennett being thrown at 7:02 PM on May 8, 2014

It sounds like maybe the swollen ankles are due to Chronic Venous Insufficiency if the treatment is to wear compression socks. If that's the diagnosis, it may also help you to avoid salty foods and to get what exercise you can (walking seems to be the best for mine, but I would check with your doc first).

You might also ask your doc about swimming or other exercise programs for people with arthritis. It's often tempting to sit and rest when your joints hurt, but gentle exercise is recommended for people with arthritis so that they keep their flexibility and muscle strength. I know it helps me a lot; those first steps in the morning are fairly miserable, but once I get going, I feel much better (I walk or use the exercise bike about an hour a day to help manage my vein problems and arthritis).

Oh, and you might also ask your doctor about a TENS unit; my father used one for the arthritis in his shoulder and it was a huge help. I believe Medicare paid for most or all of the cost.
posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 8:30 PM on May 9, 2014

One more thing--some gentle exercise may also help you sleep better and that makes a HUGE difference in how you perceive pain. It gives you a more positive outlook, makes problems seem smaller, and just generally helps you feel the pain less.

All the best to you. Take care and I hope some of these suggestions are helpful.
posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 8:36 PM on May 9, 2014

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