(From my life, with some technical language from anatomy.)
These have been hard days. It started maybe five weeks ago, with occasional twinges in my right hip. As time went on, the twinges turned into pain, mirrored eventually by pain on the inside of my right thigh, in the groin area, and then the pain began to radiate down my leg. Walking gradually became an ordeal, and a week ago, sleeping became difficult. What was happening to me?
A week ago I began using a cane to get around and contracted the distances I could manage, eventually to just walking around the corner once a day.
The one thing that was comfortable was sitting in a chair; after a few moments I could forget that there was a problem. So working at the computer was easy, and I began posting four to six things a day, mostly fairly short postings that gave me pleasure. But then, last weekend, my sleep difficulties started to catch up with me; I was exhausted most of the time.
On Wednesday I gave up and went off — well, was driven — to the Palo Alto Medical Foundation. Spent much of the day there (got a flu shot while I was there), eventually getting a diagnosis of, sigh, osteoarthritis, caused by a breakdown of cartilage in a joint, so that bone rubs on bone. It’s a degenerative condition associated with aging, among other things. (There might be bursitis as well, but you can’t see inflammation on an X-ray.)
The report on the X-rays, with some brief (though still technical) explanations (in square brackets) of some of the terms:
There is no evidence of acute fracture or dislocation. There are significant degenerative changes of the right hip with superior and medial joint space narrowing, subchondral sclerosis [increased bone formation around the joint], subchondral cyst [fluid-filled sac extruded from a joint] formation and juxta-articular [near or in the region of a joint] osteophyte [spur] formation. Much more mild degenerative changes noted involving the left hip. Note is also made of osteitis pubis [(noninfectious) inflammation of the (cartilaginous) joint uniting the left and right pubic bones] and degenerative spurring of the right sacroiliac joint [the L-shaped joint between the sacrum and the ileum bones] so that bone rubs on bone.
Symptomatic relief: a pain reliever (acetominophen — Tylenol — or ibuprofen, with ibuprofen recommended at first because of its anti-inflammatory effects), ice, stretching exercises as tolerated. The ibuprofen began to kick in last night, but my life is still much contracted, because of exhaustion and the difficulties of managing even the minimal responsibilities of daily life. I’ll see an orthopedic surgeon on Thursday.
The radiologist’s report is jam-packed with technical terms of anatomy, most of them necessary in talking about features of internal anatomy that we have no ordinary-language terms for. Even the semi-technical word spurring incorporates a metaphor that might not be obvious in the context of bones and joints.
(The rapid progression from mere twinges to serious pain and disability was something of a surprise. Probably I just reached a tipping point, at which everything cascaded down. And then the problems of compensating for my increasing disabilities produced other problems, like cramping.)
Meanwhile, I limp along painfully. And depend on the kindnesses of friends.