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I follow several blogs and one of my favorites is Living with RA written by Andrew. He not only conveys a lot of valuable information, he does it in a very personal and personable way. Andrew recently wrote about the compelling evidence demonstrating that RA has a negative effect on muscles.

I don’t doubt that RA impacts our muscular system. In fact, if you ask any RA patient who has been diagnosed for any length of time, I’d bet they’d agree.

What is not clear to me, however, is how much is cause and how much is effect. Since I was diagnosed (five years ago this month) I’ve had a hip and shoulder replaced, had three shoulder surgeries, one knee surgery, and I’m scheduled for total knee replacement in two weeks. The pain and disability that the surgeries cured, along with the recovery periods (sometimes months) have definitely slowed down my activity level. I used to walk three miles without thinking about it. Now there are days that I can’t walk across the parking lot. This drastic decrease in exercise has certainly lowered my fitness level.

Is there additional impact directly from the RA? Probably, but how much is hard to determine.

But what I have learned is that sometimes a little prevention goes a long way. My husband and I recently took a few days off. I knew there would be more activity than I’m used to and with sleeping in a strange bed, eating outside my normal diet, etc., I could potentially have a flare. So I started a prednisone taper at the beginning of the trip. I not only had more control over the inflammation, I had more energy and enthusiasm for the vacation.

Don’t get me wrong. Steroids are powerful drugs and I am in no way proposing that people take them indiscriminately. But I do think they have their purpose if used wisely and used well. And I believe that they can be used to prevent a flare just as easily as they can be used to recover from one. (Fellow blogger Andrew is like me with a love-hate relationship with steroids, but his is more a hate-hate relationship.)

Unfortunately, I’m paying the piper. I no sooner got home from vacation than I’ve had to travel two weeks for work (long hours, strange beds, bad food — again), which is why I haven’t posted for a while. I am off my RA drugs getting ready for knee surgery in two weeks. And, of course, it’s been raining every day that I’ve been here and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. And because I’m this close to surgery, I can’t take NSAIDS and I can’t take prednisone.

All I can do is try to take the best care of myself that I can.

Sometimes that’s all any of us can do.

In the meantime, I hope that whatever “causes” you have in your life have brought happy effects. Thanks for checking in.