Good Day PMR Family,
Happy New Year to all of you. I wish for each of us to have a pain-free 2022!
Especially since my goal this year is to GET OFF STEROIDS!! I am sure that most of you have the same intention.
Here's to sharing our success stories next year, I hope!
Confessions of an Unsuccessful Attempt to Get off Prednisone
I have made a valiant and consistent effort to embrace the same old tried and true PMR remedies these past 18 months. By keeping with all recommendations, I had hoped to be off steroids by now or at least close to that goal.
I diligently have kept to a very slow taper of my Prednisone, maintained a Paleo anti-inflammatory diet, rested when necessary, and stretched and walked daily. Since changing jobs, my stress level has been low, as I can pace myself as necessary. I have adopted a new chill attitude with loads of self-care throughout!
As a last-ditch resort, I have even tried a few goofy remedies such as celery juicing and drinking tons of water to help ease my PMR.
Unfortunately, my stiffness and discomfort continue to stick to me like my grandkids play slime on my carpet!
I have been stagnating at 5 mg of Prednisone for 5 months now... Oh, I have tried to taper down slowly but ultimately have failed each time.
As a person who is unfortunately used to dealing with long-term and chronic illness, I have learned to keep chugging on and trying to do whatever is necessary to feel well.
So for 2022, I am initiating "Plan B" to help me get off the "Roids." The first part of my plan is to add a new member to my healthcare team.
My new team member is an "integrative physician".
You may ask, "what is an integrative doctor and how can they help with my PMR"?
Well, that is what I am here today to tell you about.
Integrative medicine is also called alternative, functional or complementary medicine. No matter what you term it, this type of healthcare combines traditional (Western) medicine with natural and mind-body-spiritual remedies similar to Eastern medicine.
I would call it the best of both medical worlds.
As a cancer survivor, I am already familiar with many Eastern health remedies used to help ease stress and discomfort and boost immunity. When dealing with a long-term illness, I know that you need all of the help you can muster to get through some tough times.
Integrative health is not weird, futuristic, or unresearched medicine. These are actual medical doctors who have found that combining all aspects of health and treatment works better than just one dimension. It makes sense.
With that being said, how can an integrative physician help us?
Here are 6 ways that integrative doctors can assist with Polymyalgia Rheumatica.
In my opinion, there is no downside to seeing an integrative physician. There are only multiple benefits.
I have listed how my new team member has helped me in hopes that it will give you new avenues to explore in your PMR journey if needed.
1. One doctor to see the whole picture.
After being on steroids for a period of time, I have developed multiple (mostly prednisone-induced) conditions to worry about. In addition to PMR, I am now dealing with osteoporosis, adrenal insufficiency, cataracts, glaucoma, and Hashimoto's hypothyroidism, along with a few other issues sprinkled in.
My "medical diagnosis list" has certainly grown in the past 18 months. I also have numerous doctors treating me for each of these problems.
An integrative health physician will look at your whole health picture and pull together your complete treatment plan.
This is a welcome service since the rest of my medical team is only concerned about their particular specialty area. I have felt that it was up to me to piece it all together and as my health problem list keeps growing, I have experienced increasing anxiety about my overall health management.
2. Someone to guide me regarding supplements
Like many of us with PMR, I am taking mounds of supplements in hopes of conquering the PMR beast and returning to good health. Thus far, my doctors have had zero input regarding supplementation, with the exception of Vitamin D and calcium.
My integrative doctor is very knowledgeable about supplements and guides me towards ones that are high-quality and without additives. I appreciate her guidance in this area as I felt like I was shooting in the dark prior to her help.
3. Unhurried appointments with loads of questions that really explore all aspects of my health
My first visit to my new physician was over 2 hours. We just sat and talked. We reviewed my entire health history and any concerns that I had along with a lengthy list of questions regarding my life and health that she had prepared. I was even queried about what my goals were for my health.
I was floored yet immensely thankful that she ferreted out every aspect of my overall health. And to have been asked my concerns and goals was an unexpected pleasure.
4. Lab tests galore
We do not usually think that numerous blood tests are thrilling. However, I was happy to have a full array of lab work ordered to investigate my health status thoroughly.
5. Guidance on diet and exercise
Perhaps you have doctors that are more comprehensive in your treatment than mine but not one of my medical team has ever discussed diet or exercise regarding PMR. I even have tried to mention it on numerous occasions and I don't believe that any of them acknowledged my point. This has been discouraging.
If I did not have online support groups teaching me about the role of diet in PMR, I never would have had a clue to initiate any dietary changes.
One great aspect of integrative medicine is that it incorporates nutrition and exercise into the core of their healthcare, which I find refreshing.
6. A physician who is willing to work outside of the box and discuss all aspects of health
As I said previously, after following the tried and true traditional approach to PMR, I am ready to embrace some new ideas to kick-start my 2022 goal to get off steroids.
I feel like I have tapped out the complete"arsenal" of PMR medications (limited as they are).
I am anxious to explore alternative approaches and my new doctor seems to be open to these discussions so far.
I even broached the idea of trying Low Dose Naltrexone (LDN). Most traditional US physicians are hesitant to try this PMR treatment even though it has been proven successful (especially outside of the US). I was relieved to discover that she is willing to consider this avenue if needed in the future.
Just in case you have no idea what I am talking about, here is a little blurb from an NIH study on LDN.
"Our findings that baseline ESR may be associated with LDN response suggest that other inflammatory conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, polymyalgia rheumatica, and lupus, may benefit from LDN. LDN may serve as a concomitant medication when immunomodulatory therapies are not effective or not well tolerated by the patient. We propose that pilot trials could be carried out to test LDN in inflammatory and autoimmune conditions".
I'm crossing my fingers that my integrative doctor does not disappoint. I know that she is not a miracle worker, but I hope she will become a valuable member of my team and help move me towards my goal.
My new doctor is 2 hours away and after my initial consultation, we just have visits by phone or e-mail. If you are looking for an integrative health practitioner and do not have any in your area, I did find a good amount of telemed practices that specialize in integrative medicine. You can just google and it should populate a list to look over.
I will keep you updated on my Plan B journey as I navigate new avenues regarding my care.
Have a great week, everyone!