Osteoarthritis (OA), also known as degenerative joint disease, is a chronic condition which involves the destruction of joint cartilage, resulting in stiffness, pain and limited or loss of movement in the affected joint(s). Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the spinal canal that can be caused by one's osteoarthritis; it has symptoms such as numbness and pain in the neck, back, buttocks, thighs or calves that can be worsened by physical activities, such as walking and exercising. It is not unusual for people with OA and/or spinal stenosis to limit their physical activity in hopes of reducing the pain with which they have to deal. West Chester, Pennsylvania's David Shuey took a different tack; he decided to take osteoarthritis and spinal stenosis for a bicycle ride across the U.S. this summer. Here's some of his inspiring story.
When David's mother was about to turn 60, her OA and spinal stenosis took a sudden turn for the worse. The result was a hip replacement, six spinal fusion procedures, and spending the last 15 years of her life in a wheelchair in a nursing home (the last two years bedridden) and of course suffering much debilitating pain. Upon receiving the diagnosis in his early fifties that he had the same two ailments, David resolved to do what he could to not suffer and end up like his mother. Recognizing that his mother's being overweight and sedentary had greatly aggravated her condition, he decided to stay active and keep his weight in check. One of his ways to keep moving was to become an avid cyclist.
As his 60th birthday approached, David decided he would honor his mother, raise awareness and funds for the fight against arthritis, and have the adventure of a lifetime by cycling across the U.S. His well-thought-out plan was to begin his epic journey in Seattle, Washington on June 5, 2009, and averaging about 60 miles a day, reach Cape May, New Jersey on August 9th -- his 60th birthday.
Having traveled through 14 states and the District of Columbia, climbed over the Rockies, endured endless storms, and shared the road with many motor vehicles (and their drivers) that didn't seem too keen on sharing the road with a biker, David arrived in Cape May right on schedule. There to greet him and help him celebrate his birthday and successful coast-to-coast trek was a host of family and friends. One of his goals had been to raise $50,000 for the Arthritis Foundation and for research to find a cure for OA; he raised $65,000 and counting.
David, despite his osteoarthritis and spinal stenosis, which require him to take anti-inflammatory medicine twice a day to make the pain manageable, was able to peddle his bike 3,606 miles to achieve his lofty goal. He averaged close to his planned 60 miles per day on his 64-day journey, made many new friends, saw the country up close and personal, and got his message out: "I may have arthritis. But arthritis doesn't have me!" -- and, arthritis can't stop you if you keep moving.
To see extensive photos of his journey and read David's daily blog entries and to donate to the cause if you'd like, you can visit: community.arthritis.org/David9/blog
Remember, whether you have (a) potentially-debilitating condition(s) such as David deals with on a daily basis or one that has you stymied like his mother's situation, check with your doctor or other medical professional to see if physical activity might help you, too. Who knows, muscular movement might just be what the doctor ordered (orders).