Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Dreaded Itis Brothers

I see a massage therapist who says, “When the Itis brothers visit, they are hard to get rid of.”  And you are wondering what on earth he’s talking about, right? I laughed the first time he said it, because I immediately knew what he meant.  You see, that day, I was complaining about bursitis in my hip, and I’d seen him before when I had tennis elbow, the nick-name for tendonitis in the elbow. And, no, I don’t play tennis.

I have, however, been visited by several of the Itis brothers—not only in my hip and elbow, but also in my wrists and heel. Somehow, more than any other of the “itises,” bursitis sounds like an old lady disease to me, but it isn’t.  A few years ago when I visited a physical therapist about my hip, he told me he had a patient in her twenties who had it.  Just knowing someone who was twenty-something had it cheered me up no end.


The suffix “itis” means inflammation, so we have bronchitis, tonsillitis, gastritis, arthritis--you name it.  I am counting my blessings that my “itis” issues tend to come and go. The hip doctor I visited this time gave me a write-up on bursitis that explained that it can be caused by running, walking or riding a bicycle,  especially when the bicycle seat is too high.  Since it came on this time just as I returned home from cycling thirty miles, I guess I know what happened. 
When he showed me the description, I told him I didn’t know what I was going to do, because I keep my bicycle seat high to lessen the pressure on my knees, which give me trouble from time to time.  He said I’d have to pick my poison—not particularly helpful advice, but then he’s only concerned with hips.
 I see a different doctor for my knees. The good news is that the Itis brothers have not yet visited my knees; those twinges are usually caused by doing too many leg lunges or increasing my cycling mileage too quickly when the weather first gets nice in the spring. My knee doctor has never given the condition a name, but a cycling tour guide once called it "Spring knee." The good news is my doctor did tell me I had the knees of a person twenty years younger, so I guess I’ll keep up my usual exercise regimen.
Meanwhile, I’m taking anti-inflammatory medication, icing my hip, doing some stretching exercises and laying off cycling for a bit.  The doctor offered to give me a shot of cortisone in my hip if the medication didn’t work.   I told him in no uncertain terms that would be a last resort, since I’ve hated shots since I was a child.
I think I made his day when I told him that bursitis wasn’t that bad, that if I had to choose between couch “potato-itis” and bursitis, I’d take bursitis any day. After all, bursitis is confined to my hip, while couch “potato-itis” has other unpleasant symptoms like weight gain and general sluggishness.