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Dear Dr. Saltzman--

I am a man 54 years old who has always been an athlete. I played some college and professional football in the 70s and I have stayed in shaped since then. I kept in shape, that is, until I began to develop arthritis in my elbows and knees around five years ago. This has gotten progressively worse, so that now I have had to stop jogging, which I always enjoyed, and even a long walk is difficult. Because of my elbows, I no longer can swing a golf club or a tennis racket, and both of these sports were a big part of my life before. Even when I am not trying to do anything physical, I am in almost constant pain, and this pain is beginning to change my personality. My doctor has prescribed Celebrex which does help some, but not very much. Also, I worry about taking Celebrex because of the increased risk of heart attack, so often I go without it. I am afraid to take some of the stronger drugs, because I have a tendency to abuse them and become addicted.

Now, I am beginning to feel the arthritis in my lower back, as well, and this pain is even worse than what I have been feeling in my arms and legs. As I say, this pain is changing my personality. Before, I was fun to be with, and very seldom angry. Now I find myself totally impatient, and often angry to the point of taking it out on my wife even though I know none of this is her fault.

I had pain from football injuries, but it always healed. This arthritis pain does not heal. It just gets worse. Before I began to hurt, I never understood this, but this kind of pain which is always there, begins to wear you down and tire you out until you really have no patience left for anything. I know you are not a medical doctor, but I am hoping that you can give me some suggestions for managing my mood and my personality better. If I can't learn to deal with this pain, I fear that I might end up divorced.


Cleveland, Ohio

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Dear R.P.--

Thanks for writing. I assume that your doctor has found that you have osteoarthritis, also known as degenerative joint disease, or wear-and-tear arthritis, not rheumatoid arthritis, which although it shares the name "arthritis" (which simply means inflammation of the joints), is something else entirely. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that occurs when the body's own immune system mistakenly attacks the lining inside the joint. Your form of arthritis, osteoarthritis, is caused by the breakdown of cartilage inside the joints, usually due to overuse of the joint, or repeated injury to the joint. Normally, this cartilage acts as a cushion between the bones of joints. When there is cartilage loss, movement of the joint may involve bone-on-bone friction, uncushioned by any cartilage, which is responsible for the pain you feel.

Now, you are asking me for suggestions on how to manage your mood so that you do not become impossible to live with, but first I wonder if you have done enough to manage the pain of this arthritis. I understand your concerns about Celebrex--I would have them myself--and I understand that taking opiates on a regular basis would be dangerous for you, but those are not the only possibilities. I am going to make some recommendations on this score, but I need to emphasize that, as you wrote, I am not a medical doctor, so my recommendations do not have that authority. I offer them in the nature of an experiment which may work for you, and which you can try if you wish.

That said, you may find that ordinary aspirin will give you as much pain relief as Celebrex without the increased danger of heart problems. In fact, aspirin is known to lower the risk of heart attack in many patients. You might also like to try a product called Zyflamend which is a compound of a number of herbs such as tumeric, rosemary, ginger, etc., which are known for their anti-inflammatory powers. It might be wise also to add some of these herbs to your daily diet. Tumeric, particularly, is known to help relieve inflammation of the joints. Then there is a product called Myristin (ceytl myristoleate) which came to my attention when my German shepherd developed arthritis a couple of years ago.

This dog was limping badly, and in constant pain. Although she had been a wonderful athlete, she no longer would run at all, and her crying out in pain was sad to hear. A series of X-rays showed that she had advanced arthritis in one of her forelegs, and some arthritis in the other. The vet prescribed an anti-inflammatory analgesic drug called Deramax, which is a kind of Celebrex for animals. This did help, but it seemed that the fun and games were over forever for this dog. A friend suggested that I try a course of Myristin. He had used it, and told me that it did not work for everyone, but that if it did work, the results would probably surprise me. I tried it, and within a couple of weeks the dog was running again and no longer needed the Deramax for pain and inflammation.

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© 2007 Robert Saltzman

Since I was suffering from some arthritis myself, I decided to give Myristin a try in my own body, and had essentially the same experience as my dog. Within a few weeks of starting on Myristin, my elbow pain went away, and I could use my arms fully for the first time in a couple of years. As I say, I have heard that Myristin does not work for everyone, but you might like to give it a try. You can read about how ceytl myristoleate was discovered here, read some clinical information about ceytl myristoleate here, and find Myristin here.

I would suggest also that that you experiment with adding some salmon oil to your daily diet. Four or five capsules---about a teaspoon--taken either all at once with a meal or split between two meals would be a good approach in my experience. According to noted nutritionist Dr. Barry Sears, salmon oil can both reduce the pain and inflammation of arthritis and increase emotional wellbeing.

Another supplement worth trying, although it is somewhat expensive, is called SAM-e. This substance is known to be helpful in relieving joint pain, and also is said to improve mood and mental outlook. It should not be taken by people with symptoms of schizophrenia or other serious mental illness. About 200 milligrams per day might be a good dose to try.

Finally, I suggest that you read and follow my recommentions for a diet for physical, mental, and emotional stability, which I believe can help anyone to feel better, particularly people with difficult ailments such as yours.

Now possibly some experimentation as I have detailed above will relieve your pain and inflammation enough so that you do not even have to worry about managing your moods and your treatment of your wife. In case this does not happen, I would suggest that you make an appointment with a psychotherapist who specializes in chronic pain. There are techniques such as meditation and guided imagery which are known to be helpful in dealing with such pain, but they are best learned in a one-to-one situation. If, however, you would like to begin experimentation with a simple meditation practice, I have described a good approach to meditation elsewhere on my website.

Be well.

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page last modified February 8, 2007

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