Why I Won't Stay Silent About My Condition, Like My Doctor Recommended

It was after a painful spell of seven years that I was diagnosed with ankylosing spondilitis (AS). Not many with chronic pain actually know or realize whether they should see an orthopedic or a rheumatologist. And so was my case.

I visited an orthopedic with my complaints who helped me figure out the cause of my pain. After a series of blood tests I was diagnosed with AS. I remember the fateful day when I visited the doctor to understand management of the disease. Apart from prescribing a set of pain killers, I was also suggested to keep quiet about the disease and not share it with others as it may have social ramifications.

This advice stemmed from the fact that AS affects the lower body and may affect sexual relationship, and hence the doctor wanted me to keep it as a secret, lest it may affect my married life. I was not married then and words like his put a doubt and confusion in my mind. I felt as if life was going to come to a standstill and as if it was a shameful thing to have chronic, lower back pain.

It had a very adverse impact on the way I looked at my condition and made me extremely insecure. I wish I had the sensibility to look at the larger picture of my condition rather than sulking over the doctor’s words. But I was too naive and had never heard of my condition before.

My sister came to my rescue by sheer greater experience of realizing that my ailment could not be best treated by an orthopedic. I was referred to a rheumatologist and since then he has stood by me like a rock and has made me realize that life is beyond bothering about a pain in the back, and that it’s in my hand to manage my condition – not in society’s.

There should be no stigma attached to AS, and it is perfectly fine to open up and talk about my issues without creating any fuss. And not just talk, but also find solution.

It’s critical that orthopedics and general practitioners are much better equipped to understand issues that fall under the realm of rheumatology, as a patient often first visits them. It should be the foremost duty of an orthopedic to direct the patient to a rheumatologist, instead of misleading her with inappropriate and distressing advice. We should be more vocal about chronic backache and not dismiss it.

Education and awareness can go a long way in addressing concerns such as misinformation and dilemma.

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