I’ve recently been asked a question that I’ve been asked many times before. The question usually comes from a doctor, wanting to check in on my general wellbeing. The reason why it has stuck in my mind so much on this particular occasion is because I have recently read the results of a study that made me rethink my traditional answer.
On telling someone that I had JIA, they asked “Does it hurt?”. Common question, obvious answer: Yes, of course it hurts – that’s its ‘thing’. But that’s not a very polite response, is it? My traditional answer is “sometimes, yeah”. No one wants to come across as a moaner.
It’s quite hard to describe different types of pain. I know there are different types of pain with arthritis, and I know what normal arthritis pain is and what kinds of pain would give me cause for concern. I know pain that isn’t anything to do with arthritis, and might come from me falling downstairs because I’m so clumsy or from accidentally ripping off a hangnail.
It’s a question I get asked a lot about steroid injections as well. I’m more upfront with that, usually saying something about it being 20 seconds of absolute agony, so painful it makes me stop breathing and go completely silent, so painful I can’t even cry. There’s nothing embarrassing about admitting something notoriously painful is in fact painful.
I’ve met people with arthritis before who are so scared of the pain of a steroid injection they would rather struggle on with a swollen joint. I am not one of these people; I would rather endure 20 seconds of horrible, intense pain than struggle on with a bad knee or an elbow so sore I can’t pick anything up. It’s a means to an end.
This, and the fact that I have JIA pain every single day but usually don’t cry about it, led me to believe that I must have an exceptionally high pain threshold. However, a 2013 study has made me not think quite so highly of myself.
This study says that children with JIA actually have a lower pain threshold than those without. This made me think what came first – the low pain threshold, or the JIA? If the low pain threshold was first, then just how painful is JIA? Are we all just fussing over nothing?
Honestly, I don’t know. And I suppose it doesn’t really matter. We’re all in this together, moaning about it and getting on with it. We can’t all be wrong, right?
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(Any opinions expressed in Collette’s blog are not necessarily shared by Arthur’s Place. Nothing that you read in Collette’s blog constitutes medical advice.)