Woodworking with Arthritis

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During the many years I've been active in this newsgroup, we've touched on just about every subject even remotely related to woodworking. There is one subject, though, I don't recall ever seeing mentioned, and it's becoming more relevant to me, with each passing day - arthritis.
About a year ago, I started feeling pain in my hands. That pain became steadily more acute until, one day, it was so bad, I had to take time off work and go see my doctor. Yesterday, I received the formal diagnosis that I've got osteoarthritis. It's funny - yesterday, I couldn't spell the word; today, I'm one of the one in ten who contends with this most common form of arthritis every day.
It doesn't seem to be the end of the world. There are good days and bad. On the good days, I have no pain, and no problems working in my shop. On the bad days, working in the shop is out of the question. Fortunately, the good days far outnumber the bad days. My doctor gave me some good advice on how to manage this disease (I'm still not comfortable with the thought of actually having a disease), and you can be damned sure I'm going to do all I can to minimize its impact on my life.
That's why I'm telling all of you about this...
If the statistics are right, there are, perhaps, hundreds of people reading this newsgroup, dealing with exactly the same problems I am. I'm surprised I haven't seen it come up before. I'm not one to moan and feel sorry for himself, and I, certainly, wouldn't say I shy away from pain. I was raised playing football and hockey at high levels. I played in pain - often! Frankly, I liked it : ) I'm hoping some of you can share insights into how to be a woodworker, contending with arthritis. What do you do to stay active in the shop? I want to continue being a woodworker - I just need to figure out how.
Rob
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Prevention is better than treatment, so what I'm about to say may be too late for you, but...
...There is a fellow named Loren Cordain who found a strong link between arthritis and diet, namely, people who eat no grain or grain products simply don't get arthritis, period. If you would like some interesting reading, you can google him and Ray Audette.
I've been off of all bread, corn, and any other grains, along with sugar and potatoes for 4 years now. One of the *first* side effects was that my hands quit hurting (I was having some of the beginning signs of arthritis, and I think I may have postponed the problem for a couple of decades).
Oh, and I lost a little over 100 lbs that way. -- Howard "no sugar, no bread, no potatoes" Harkness
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http://enbrel.com/index.jsp
You could check into this.
Happy Holidays
wrote:

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Rob,
Excellent post and I'm sure that there are many others that share this issue. I had dealt with it since I was a young(er) man, although my problem was in my hip. I had the option of having a replacement at 35 or waiting as long as possible to allow technology to progress and possibly extend the useful life of a prosthetic implant. I elected to wait.
In the interim there were some fairly effective drugs available in the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory family (aka "nsaid" ) which did a decent job keeping the pain and lack of mobility to a passable level. I'm sure your doctor can tell you about these and whether they are an appropriate choice for you, and I'm guessing there are some new choices on the market that were not available to me. I changed my diet as well, but frankly I didn't see a significant difference as a result of diet changes. This probably differs for others.
I was raised in the old school where you weren't really hurting unless you could produce a bucket of blood to prove you were injured, so the prescription drug thing was not something I warmed up to very fast. SWMBO, in a characteristically common sense moment, pointed out that I was a giant 'pita' when I was in pain and that if I didn't do something about it she was gonna tie to me to a tree in my sleep and let the coyotes clean up the mess. In comparison, the drug thing seemed like a decent trade off. I can tell you that there is no sense living with that kind of pain if something can be done to alleviate it, and the drug thing worked well for me.
That being said there were some days when getting out to the garage was just not feasible and on those days I found it helpful to catch up on journals, do plans and such, stuff that didn't require my stressing the joints too much. It was a way to stay involved with the wood, without putting myself in jeapordy with bad joints.
There are some pretty amazing surgical breakthroughs these days with hand and small joint repair/replacement, the guy that did my surgery has had some great success with hands, wrists and shoulders. His advice to me was to delay a surgical solution for as long as I possibly could.
I wish you the best, there are some amazing things being done in this area that can help.
Jeff

how
active
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Don't delay surgery. This only allows the bones to deteriorate further and there may not be enough bone lefty for replacement. Now days there is a new hip joint available called a lateral flair stem. It doesn't just replace the socket and joint, it also replaces the stem off the joint allowing better support for weight as well as the ability to lengthen-shorten the leg. Read my other post.
-- Woody
Check out my Web Page at:
http://community-1.webtv.net/WoodworkerJoe/WoodworkerJoesInfo
Where you will find:
******** How My Shop Works ******** 5-21-03
* * * Build a $20 DC Separator Can Lid. 1-14-03 * * * DC Relay Box Building Plans. 1-14-03 * * * The Bad Air Your Breath Everyday.1-14-03 * * * What is a Real Woodworker? 2-8-03 * * * Murphy's Woodworking Definitions. 2-8-03 * * * Murphy's Woodworking Laws. 4-6-03 * * * What is the true meaning of life? 1-14-03 * * * Woodworker Shop Signs. 2-8-03
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Don't delay surgery. This only allows the bones to deteriorate further and there may not be enough bone lefty for replacement. Now days there is a new hip joint available called a lateral flair stem. It doesn't just replace the socket and joint, it also replaces the stem off the joint allowing better support for weight as well as the ability to lengthen-shorten the leg. Read my other post.
-- Woody
Check out my Web Page at:
http://community-1.webtv.net/WoodworkerJoe/WoodworkerJoesInfo
Where you will find:
******** How My Shop Works ******** 5-21-03
* * * Build a $20 DC Separator Can Lid. 1-14-03 * * * DC Relay Box Building Plans. 1-14-03 * * * The Bad Air Your Breath Everyday.1-14-03 * * * What is a Real Woodworker? 2-8-03 * * * Murphy's Woodworking Definitions. 2-8-03 * * * Murphy's Woodworking Laws. 4-6-03 * * * What is the true meaning of life? 1-14-03 * * * Woodworker Shop Signs. 2-8-03
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Excellent suggestion Jeff. I can keep my mind busy with woodworking, even when my joints need a break.
Rob
---------------------
"Jeff Considine" wrote ...

just
in
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one
word;
of
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Lots of people will tell you different things about osteoartritis. Mostly folk tales. I know I think I've heard them all in the last 30+ years including but you're too young to have arthritisis. I've been dealing withit since I was twelve. I've got it in my spine. Two things kep me going. One you keep moving sure it hurts but it gets worse/stiff and harder to move when you take it easy. Second glucosomine. That what works for me.
D. Mo
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My doctor gave much the same advice. I think I have the medical and remedy aspects of this covered. I was more wondering what tricks people used to adapt their tools to their new requirements. As an example of what I've done: I've added second handles to some of my hand-held tools, so I can get a two-handed grip on them. On other tools, I've enlarged the handles, so I don't have to squeeze them as tightly. Has anybody had to try anything similar?
Thanks for the replies so far.
Rob
---------------------
"D.Mo" wrote...

harder
me.
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ask your doctor for celebrex i've tried it and it works for me

one
word;
of
On
good
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Dan Parrell wrote:

Be warned: There are over the counter medications that can't be taken with celebrex.
--
Mark

N.E. Ohio
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Makes your dog do Tie Chi too.

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Be extra warned. Most all arthritis medicines are NSAIDs. Over a short period, these medicines can ruin your kidneys. I know from experience. I was taking Voltaran for only 7 years before it took my kidneys. I almost lost my life. I just felt lousy and went to the hospital. While they were treating me I went into Cardiac Arrest and I was expected to die. All of this because I lost my kidneys.
As for me, I am converting my tools so I can sit down in my wheelchair in front of them. I have my BS on a 20" stand with drawers in the stand. My BOSS is on a 20" stand with a 5" drawer on top. It allows the table of the BOSS to be 37" above the floor. The DP is on a 20" stand as it is a 12" Delta and needs the lower table for the right height operation. The planer is on a stand made for it and it is at the right height. The scroll saw is OK for it's height. I am planning on lowering the jointer and the TS and plan on building a bench that I can work from while I am in my wheelchair.
--

Dan Parrell wrote:

>>ask your doctor for celebrex i've tried it and it works for me
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Rob
Thank you for this very personal and frank note on this widespread malady. The other replies were equally was also very direct and honest. We actually do see indirect commentary about this subject now and then on the wreck in the form of "selling my tools which I can't use any more due to my arthritis". I have osteoarthritis myself, chiefly in the hands and back. In my case it began about age 57 and seemed to increase steadily until I accepted the fact that I would have to take regular treatment - not an easy reality to face when you have had the very great fortune of good health. I retired from my career as a gynecologic surgeon at 59, not because of the arthritis, but because I wanted to build my own house. I think the increased physical labor associated with the building accelerated the arthritis, but perhaps it only served to accentuate it. In any case, for myself, the use of a daily anti-inflammatory and a hefty dose of glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate makes (currently anyway) the symptoms essentially disappear. It is not easy to "get on with it" beset by aches. These go away when treated, although the condition is, for all intents and purposes, permanent and often progressive. I still practice medicine and I find that this works for many of my patients as well. The over-the counter NSAIDS can be rough on the stomach for some people but the three COX-2 inhibitors on the market, Vioxx, Celebrex, and Bextra, have less risk, but at a higher price. The glucosamine/chondroitin sulfate combination is fairly well established as effective but only in large doses, minimally 1500 and 1200mg a day respectively. There is a lot of research going into a "cure", but until then, these medications make a big difference in many lives.
Bill
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I put up with it from time to time and know as I age more it'll get worse but at 55 its not bad yet. Runs in the family too. I've a compressed disk in my neck that plays hell with my right arm & hand too. When it really bugs me, or the torn meniscus in my right knee becomes a real bother, I take an Aleve (generic crud is Naproxin). Works like a champ. Dr recommended and he hit the nail on the head.
I've too many things to build to let a little pain stop me - famous last words!
Specter wrote:

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We start comparing aches and pains, this thread could get outta hand. On a particularly bad day recently I asked a friend of mine, 77 and still a world class, active musician, if it got any better as you get older ... he just looked at me in that wise old way and said "You ain't felt nothing yet!" ... not exactly what I wanted to hear.
--
www.e-woodshop.net
Last update: 12/23/03
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I have osteoarthritis in both hips. I need hip replacement and the reason that wasn't done was I was 35 when diagnosed and the Drs. said they didn't do hip replacements on those under 50. now I'm 53 and the last several years have been pure hell. Because of my pain the mobility has decreased. This has allowed the weight to increase and the Drs. said I was a high risk candidate because of the obesity during any kind of surgery. Sure, I was taking an arthritis pain drug to help relieve the pain for many years. These drugs are NSAIDs and all do about the same I fought the weight gain and tried diets with no help. I was even suggested to have my stomach stapled but that operation carries the same risk with obesity.
Now the only difference between me and someone who has their stomach stapled is they eat less. I went on a portion control diet the beginning of this year and lost 27 lbs in 4-1/2 months. Then in the middle of May, I had a severe heart attack. I weighed 392. I had 7 stents placed in my heart. 3 weeks later I was back in the hospital with congestive heart failure. When I got out this time I was not on a high blood pressure medicine because my BP was fine and the Drs. found out I am allergic to beta-blockers. In mid July I was back in the hospital because I felt lousy. Come to find out that my kidney stone blocked the urethra and caused an infection. I was given antibiotics and made it through at the cost of both of my kidneys. The Drs. said that the arthritis medicine isn't good for the kidneys and took me off of it. Meanwhile it is dialysis three times a week now.
I can't walk until I get the hips replaced. I have been converting some of my tools for sit-down operation as I do most in a wheelchair. The dialysis has helped me loose more weight and currently I'm down to 300, 119 lbs less from the 419 I stared at at the beginning of the year.
Last friday my heart Dr. looked at my heart with catheterization and found one of the stents closed some. He fixed that and I feel great. In the future I am going to get the kidney stone removed along with the stent that allowed the urine to drain. Also I will be getting a fistula for a more permanent place for my dialysis. Hopefully in the future there are two hip joints and a kidney too.
One thing I found out was it is not the medical profession that does not put the hip joints in, it is clinic policy and in that case, get another Dr. I should have when I was 35 years old.
You should be so lucky to have pain and work in your shop. I only have 4 days a week and they are controlled by weather, Dr. appointments and relatives-friends needing my time. I'm lucky if I get 2 days a month.
--

Woodworking with Arthritis

Group: rec.woodworking Date: Wed, Dec 24, 2003, 1:10am (MST+7) From:
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I have the problem in both knees, hips, and ankles, as well as a little in my back and arms. One thing I found to be wonderful was an electric-driven motorcycle repair lift. I put a 4x8 sheet of MDF on the top of it with some counter-sunk screws, and voila, my workbench now lowers from 5" off the ground to about 30" high with the flip of a switch. Available in air or electric versions, it's made by (I think) an outfit called Hardy. A Yahoo search will turn it up. That, and an office chair with replaced casters, shortened (slightly) legs on my tools, and about the only time I have to stand up is when I'm on the unisaw. I can work all day and not have a bad evening.
Oh, the glucosadroitinamine whatever stuff others have mentioned were also a BIG help to me. SWMBO fills up my little pill drawers once a week, and every morning like a good boy I dump a drawer of this stuff down the hatch. It either helped me, or my body has one heckuva imagination.
Thanks for the grain tip. I'm a "bit" on the heavy side too, and I'm gonna pay more attention to my intake - after the holidaze. Joints supporting less than 1/5 ton should fare better.
Happy holidays to all,
Tony Dowden

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Once you've developed arthritis, it may be too late for a grain-free diet to help. But it won't hurt. And cutting out the sugar, and cutting back on bread and potatoes will help with the weight, even if you don't do anything else.
BTW, Glucosamine sometimes helps, sometimes makes no difference, and sometimes makes it worse. I took it for over a year, and when I finally quit, the pain actually got a little better. But when I cut out the bread, corn flakes & all other grains, sugar, and potatoes, the pain went almost completely away. I'm guessing that my excess insulin was causing inflammation (otherwise the relief would not have been so quick), but I'm convinced by Cordain's research that the primary cause of arthritis is gluten.
I occasionally miss bread, but I sure don't miss the pain in my hands and knees... And I am not tempted to 'cheat' on the holidays. Hop over to alt.support.diet.low-carb for more suggestions than you'll have time to read on that subject.
-- Howard Lee Harkness Texas Certified Concealed Handgun Instructor www.CHL-TX.com snipped-for-privacy@CHL-TX.com Low-cost Domain Registration and Hosting! www.Texas-Domains.com
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Well, grain free, huh? My wife has celiac disease and of course for me most grains are full of phosphorus or potassium and having renal failure, I have to stay away from these foods. The "lack of" these foods has not decreased any pain. I go to bed with it and I wake up with it. I tried celebrex when it was new. It did nothing and I was put back on voltaran. I've tried aleve without help. My best so far is a controlled drug.
If you can get relief from celebrex, aleve, glucosamine chondroitin or a number of other arthritis drugs, then you're not really hurting yet. The controlled drug I take doesn't relieve my arthritis, it only makes the pain less severe, SOMETIMES!!!!!
--

Tony < snipped-for-privacy@clowder.com> wrote:

Thanks for the grain tip. I'm a "bit" on the heavy side too, and I'm
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