Life Without Ibuprofen

I became aware of ibuprofen in high school, as a reliever for period pain. I used it with happy abandon for assorted cramps and pulled muscles. When my knees started hurting, I used ibuprofen. Headaches weren’t much helped by ibuprofen, but that’s what acetaminophen is for.

Eventually I had knee issues that ibuprofen didn’t handle, I added physical therapy exercises to ibuprofen. I didn’t stop taking it.

Enter blood thinners, to avoid another blood clot in my lungs.

You know what’s bad when you’re on blood thinners? Any other blood thinners. Like aspirin or naproxen or ibuprofen.

Seriously, that’s why older folks are often advised to take a low dose of aspirin a day – it’s a mild blood thinner, to avoid unneeded blood clots. But if you’re on specific medicine to make your clot less, then meds that adjust your clotting are bad.

Which means: I no longer take ibuprofen, naproxen, or aspirin. I can take acetominophen, but carefully, since my blood thinner med keeps my liver too busy to clear things like alcohol as fast as usual. Acetominophen goes through the liver, too, so I’m mindful about it. And, y’know, acetominophen didn’t really help with cramps anyway.

So here I am, in my mid-fifties, having to face arthritis, pulled muscles, and other ills without ibuprofen or naproxen. What to do?

  • I am more focused on strength training to support my knees and back.
  • I am more regular in stretching to prevent muscle cramps.
  • I am dealing with things like “sore neck and shoulder from sleeping wrong” with slow stretches and patience.

….and, if needed, I can drink. I just need to be aware it has stronger and more lasting effects than it used to have. :)

A year ago: Exercise Progress

…I started a program of walking every day.   I didn’t keep up with it being a daily walk, but I did get consistent enough in walking and strength training that I did not have to use a cane since … last January?*

I’m considering this a victory.

Two things that helped:

1) Focusing on the exercises I thought would give me the most results. I had a low level of strength in my legs and walking was sometimes difficult, so I focused on strength training and small but consistent levels of walking.

2) Using the “Days Since” tracker on my iGoogle home page to track my activity. “Days Since” tracks how many days since I did something; clicking the green “rewind” button resets to zero.  It doesn’t keep a calendar of everything I’ve done, though it does maintain a running average of the interval for each item (and turns the text red if the number of “Days Since” is greater than that item’s average).   For me this is a good way to make sure I don’t put off something too long, without making me nuts if I get off a day on my routine.  A screenshot is below.

Sample of Days Since screen

Sample of Days Since screen

Once I got up to a basic level of ability, I did start to benefit from not needing to do as much to maintain my ability as to build new muscles.  There were weeks where I’d get maybe 1 walk and 1 round of leg lifts – but I did that minimal amount, and was able to do more the following week.

It also helped that I had a concrete reason to exercise: maintaining mobility and avoiding pain.  If I slacked on leg lifts for more than a week my knees would start to hurt.   I felt better when doing these exercises multiple times a week, which encouraged me to keep doing them.

This isn’t meant as a comment on anyone else.  I have some arthritis and a low fitness level, so I’m taking steps to improve for my own selfish reasons. Not everyone else has the same ability levels (or would make the same decisions and time investment even if they did).   But having posted here about this 2010 commitment, it made sense to report back on how it went.

*Edited to add: Did see a reference to using a cane in early January last year, so to be safe it’s been most of a year.

…and the other reason why I exercise

It’s called, “Use it or lose it.”

Last fall* I pulled a muscle in my right leg.  Kept up my daily walks, pulled it again – or maybe pulled another muscle.  This aggravated the occasional pain I would have in my right knee, and added some hip and thigh pain too.

By November I was noticeably limping much of the time.  I couldn’t walk without pain. I couldn’t drive without pain. I would climb stairs using my left leg only.  I stopped sitting on the floor because I wasn’t sure I could get back up.  I stopped taking baths because I wasn’t sure I could get out of the tub.

I was afraid to go to the doctor, because I didn’t want to hear that I should just get weight loss surgery. Or a knee replacement.  I considered just buying a mobility scooter and moving to a 1-story dwelling.

This was very scary.

In December I pulled myself together to go to the doctor, or, rather, my ARNP.  She ordered knee x-rays to confirm some arthritis in both knees.  She also prescribed physical therapy, which I found to be a fantastic and empowering experience.  The physical therapist determined that my right quadriceps & hamstring muscles were significantly weaker than the left ones.  There was also some loss of range of motion, but mostly I was lacking strength.

So I started doing targeted strength exercises.  Single-leg raises, seated leg extensions, side leg lifts, bridges, steps, “chair squats”, and more.  All with 10-15 reps per set, 1-2 sets a day, on each leg. Over an hour’s worth of homework, all told.

I also was urged to begin going for walks regularly again.  Over time we increased the difficulty – using deeper steps (I’d started with a 2″ deep phone book) and exercise bands to increase resistance.

I am still doing those exercises, though not every day. Most of them I do now with a 10lb ankle weight a couple times a week.  I also take baths, get on the floor, and go upstairs more often… because if I do it today, I can probably do it tomorrow.  :)

*For the curious, this was the fall after I got my asthma and vitamin b12 deficiency under control and had loads of energy that I had to do something with.  So I began going for walks and started riding the bus, which also involved walking.  I began slowly, working up gradually, did all the things I’d been told would prevent injury…and got injured anyway.   Sigh.