Newbie seeking advice: I’m trying to help... - Arthritis Action

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Newbie seeking advice

I’m trying to help my husband who has had mild OA for several years - described as wear and tear - he was an active, healthy man until about 6 months ago when he started having back and thigh spasms and dislocated his patella whilst walking normally. The OA is in his hip, knee, ankle and toes of both feet but our GP doesn’t seem to be too worried. He has regular physio but has had to stop his beloved walking because of severe pain - even with pain medication.

His hamstrings and hip flexors tightened on the same leg and he now has quite bad pain in his back, hip and leg. He has repeatedly tried stretching exercises but it always ends badly with even more pain - especially in the hamstrings and hip flexors which are like steel cables.

After an awful episode a few days ago when he couldn’t move and was in dreadful pain, I wondered if mild OA could cause such tight hamstrings and hip flexors and such bad pain?

Any advice or pointers anyone can give me would be most welcome.

26 Replies
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Hello Finvola

I'm so sorry to hear about your husband it must be agony for him

Does he see a rheumatologist ? I see mine every 6 months and she is wonderful

If it was me I would ask for a referral they are the ones who can help

Really hope he gets some help soon

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Hello Cat and thank you for replying.

He has not seen a rheumatologist as all investigations so far have been with orthopaedics. The first suggestion of an OA connection was from an A&E doctor who looked at his hip x-ray during a bloods investigation.

This is good info and we will certainly act on it.

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OA can be very depilitating, But this stupid saying of wear & tear and decisions about its pain level are demeaning to a patient. I have had diagnosed OA since in my thirties and been told recently it is mild early stage but it has impaired over half my life. Like your husband I found Gym exercise made it worse, but I also have gouty arthritis which has to be treated differently. Your husband should insist on seeing a specialist and only do exercise that does not worsen the pain. There are one or two new items on the market now that help pain , so worth a try but beware some are expensive and don't always work for everyone. But a proffessional diagnosis is the starting point so you know what is truely wrong as there are many different types of arthritis, requiring different treatments.

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Thank you Katie - you have really been through the mill with this painful condition. All the physio exercises and stretching my husband was advised to do over the last six months have caused more pain and misery. He visits a sports injury physio who massages his back and legs and gives temporary relief, which helps a bit.

We now intend to see his GP for follow up after his A&E admission and the consultant rheumatologist will be the next step.

Many thanks for your help - keep well.

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Good luck to you both with Rheumatology, but it often takes a while to get an appointment . I just got a letter about xray I had around April for update on Arthritis situation, just so the GP can continue to prescribe painkillers and stop blaming it on my weight or mind. Sorry but thats my sarcastic veiw of my NHS treatment showing through. Not everyone gets poor response to there health issues, so as you see ever the optimist. Fortunately some times I have had very good treatment in a timely manner.

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Age, weight, natural wear and tear seem to be favourites don't they? Waiting lists here are horrendous - 3 years for routine appointments to consultants. Locally, our NHS is marvellous - once you are in the sytem. The difficulty is getting in and getting treatment co-ordinated.

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Oh so true, I'm currently waiting to see an orthopeadiac about my leg, probably be sometime next year as its been like this since April going through the varied process just to get a diagnostic test done to be referred to a specialist ,as you say its the system. On occassions I feel sorry for the GPs surgery as they have to deal with the irate customer when the system takes so long. A freind of mine had her referral dated as 2015 so it just got filed , good job she questioned it but it delayed her investigations by about three weeks. Guess theres many other things that slow the process. Take care both and best wishes.

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That’s a long wait katie. I have sometimes asked to be put on a cancellation list when wait times are long. A few times it has worked. Once our local hospital had a massive drive to reduce MRI waiting times and my husband waited only 2 weeks and was taken on a Sunday morning!

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Hi Finvola, MRIS and other tests are supposed to be done maximum of six weeks from refferal by GP. Electronic results should be there for the doctor to see almost immediately except MRIS . I was sent on a Sunday for MRI to reduce waits but I had already been waiting almost eight weeks which is over target and they still did not do the right scan. If I don't get a e referral letter this week I will be complaining as that is the only way to get action on these matters that are effecting all patients not just me.Its like Gout only a synovial fluid test can deterrmine if you have gout, generally not many people are given this test only uric acid blood tests are used as a guide line or symptoms.

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So sorry to hear of you husband's difficult situation. I also began to find that doing physio exercises caused pain and injury rather than helping - it's almost as though the body becomes super-sensitive to activity. I found that scaling back on physio helped by staying well within the boundary of movement and stretch and using Robinson Heat Pads before and after a session on the particularly problematic joints/muscles. I also purchased a massager (a Gogo body massager, but there are many different types on Amazon) but, again, use it well within what your body will tolerate - I use it on the minimum setting and with the lightest possible pressure, whereas my husband happily uses the highest setting. Learning as much as possible about body mechanics has been a great help - for example, an excellent book by Dr Jolie Bookspan (Stretching Smarter, Stretching Healthier) helped me realise that I was finding hip flexor stretches a problem because I first needed to be stretching the quadriceps - she's also good at pointing out small mistakes in how exercises are done. When exercises/stretches feel difficult or painful though, it's probably better to not carry on doing them - I often find my own alternative way of achieving a stretch that's more comfortable. Having spent a great deal of money going to physiotherapists over the years, I've found it of more help to use YouTube practitioners as a source of help - there are many to be avoided but I'd recommend "Ask Dr Jo" and possibly "Brian Abelson Kinetic Health" (do be sure though, to stay well within your limits). Two other things helped the situation - one was learning the Alexander Technique (if you visit alexander technique.co.uk you'll find an explanation and where to find a teacher), and the other was giving up caffeine. I gave up caffeine (along with liquorice tea) in the hope that it would lower my extremely high blood pressure and it not only brought that down to normal very quickly, but my very severe and frequent migraines also more gradually disappeared and are now non-existent, and I find my muscles are much less tight and unforgiving - I can do gardening, housework tasks, etc without paying a price the following day or so. All just from giving up caffeine!

I hope some of this helps your husband, but be persistent about getting further referrals and second opinions if need be, as you're entitled to ask for. It's doubly difficult if you don't know exactly what you're dealing with. I hope things go well for you.

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Hello Winnats - it’s wonderful to see so much useful advice and information as you provide. We are novices in the area of OA and my husband has been overwhelmed by the severity of the pain and the sudden deterioration in his health.

I wondered about a massager as his physio massage does help. We bought an ultrasound device but think it may not have helped or I have used it incorrectly. I agree with you that understanding and knowledge are essential and Dr Bookspan’s book sounds exactly what we need. To date, we have been using Google and taking some of the information there with a pinch of salt! We drink decaf tea and very little coffee and have a whole food diet which is additive free. I’ve heard of Alexander Technique and will certainly research that too.

You are so right about needing to know what and where the problem is and who should deal with it. This has been the source of an awful lot of worry and anxiety for us as nothing has worked and the pain and disability has got worse to the point where he has been housebound for 5 weeks. It now seems so clear that Orthopaedics was the wrong direction but hopefully, we are now on the right track.

Thank you for your help and I hope you continue free of the misery of migraines and all that accompanies them.

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Thanks for your reply Finvola. Just a quick PS - one of the things I meant to mention was that out of kilter hormones can have quite an impact on muscle/joint pain and many other things, so it might be another avenue of investigation for you. Good luck.

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Thank you Winnats - that might explain why he is in the system for all sorts of tests and further scans. It would be reassuring if something could be identified as we feel helpless merely coping with unexplained pain. I have started reading through the threads on this forum and learning an awful lot.

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The level of osteoarthritis does not always dictate the level of pain. Soft tissue problems can cause far more problems than the actual bone. Your husband needs follow up by a rheumatologist to eliminate other types of arthritis. Blood tests alone cannot diagnose all types of arthritis and requires more specialist input. I would personally ask for him to be referred to a specialist pain team.

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Thank you Badbessie (love that ID) - we didn’t know about the lack of severity’s relationship with pain - and it looks like our GP doesn’t either as all requests for referrals have come from my husband. His arthritis wasn’t considered at all.

He has seen orthopaedic consultants for back, knee and ankle - all mentioned arthritis in passing and advised stretching exercises with some bad outcomes. We intend to see our GP together to discuss the way forward - rheumatologist is first on the list and pain clinic is a good idea.

Certainly, his soft tissue problems are massive in comparison with the slight to non-existent joint pains. Thank you again for your suggestions.

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I have severe osteoarthritis in my upper spine and yet it is the place that causes least problems. I have mild to moderate osteoarthritis in most of my joints. Every type of arthritis as been eliminated over the last two years. However I keep getting repeated episodes of bursitis, tendinitis etc. The Doctors have been at a loss to explain my pain and I have now just been diagnosed with complex regional pain syndrome, chronic pain syndrome/Fibromyalgia. I think what I am trying to say is that at times there are no quick answers but you need to keep pushing your GP. Bessie was my very naughty mastiff cross...lol

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Thank you Badbessie - we have found it hard to imagine that my husband is the first and only person to suffer such pain and have suspected that the answer may be well hidden and it is up to us to push and push for investigations. Thank you for your advice.

Love dogs - ours is a daft, clever Border Collie - we've always had a collie over the last 50-odd years.

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Please be proactive in getting a referral to a consultant. You need to be politely insistent to get anywhere. We all deserve good care, but sadly if you do not know your rights under the NHS, you can be fobbed off... I suggest you read the NICE guidance. good luck!

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Thanks redmaggie. Our GP is normally on the ball, but I suspect my husband has not been bolshie enough and has hoped that a problem could be diagnosed quickly. We have an appointment with our GP and I'll be there as the pushy wife - LOL.

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Great! I am sure you can ask the penetrating questions! After being fobbed off myself many times I am a lot bolder. Also, I have had to chase up referrals and results that have mysteriously disappeared, admin can be poor. Have you got on line access to your full GP record? That is also helpful in keeping up to speed. Best wishes, x

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We have no online access and in the past, all I had to do was ask reception for a copy of whatever I wanted. Since the advent of GDPR it’s a bureaucratic nightmare getting anything - massive form to fill in and a two week wait. It’s known as progress. 😩😄

I too have learned the hard way to ask, ask and ask - then query the answer. Best wishes to you too.

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oh dear, my surgery is more forthcoming, no hassle with that at least!

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Perhaps you should look into what medications, if any, your husband is taking. I have just read an article about the large percentage of hospitalisations caused by drug side effects. An example quoted was of someone on a common blood pressure drug and diuretic with symptoms very similar to your husband’s. Apparently the older we get the more varied our reactions to drugs and drugs are not often tested on older people.

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Absolutely agree with you Kneesandtoes. The only drug he takes is Omeprazole and that is under review and suspicion of causing low sodium levels - which may cause other problems. Drug interaction is another area we both keep an eye on and one person's reaction to a drug is not the same as another person's.

At the back of my mind is a course of Ciprofloxacin which he had to stop a year ago after four days of taking it because it caused very high BP and I know this drug can affect tendons very badly too.

Thank you for the suggestion.

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Hi i also have Oa so I understand where he’s coming from. I also used to walk for miles now just a walk to shops is like walking a marathon. I’ve also got it in my hands. But he needs to be seen by a rheumatologist. So he can get treatment go to your Gp and explain to him/her and they should refer him. Good luck 😉

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Thank you Shirlz - it's awful when your body suddenly conspires against you. Good advice which we are going to follow on Thursday morning!

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